Clijsters says she has “made progress, and I think that’s the most important thing” after three-set loss to Hsieh

Playing her first match since the 2020 US Open, Clisjters was defeated by Su-Wei Hsieh but the Belgian says being able to get through the match without any big concerns was a big positive for her

CHICAGO, UNITED STATES, SEPTEMBER 27: Kim Clijsters of Belgium in action during the first round of the 2021 Chicago Fall Tennis Classic WTA 500 tennis tournament

Former world No 1 Kim Clijsters said she felt she was making progress in the right direction after her latest comeback ended in a tough three-set loss to 35-year-old Su Wei-Hsieh in the first round of the WTA Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Monday.

Clijsters was playing her first match since her first-round loss at the US Open last year. The result means that the four-time Grand Slam winner is now 0-4 since her comeback in early 2020, which came after her second retirement from the game in 2012.

The Belgian had to overcome knee surgery and a bout of COVID-19 since her last match, which had pushed her 2021 debut to this week.

Still despite the long absence, Clijsters showed that she still had the shots and legs to compete with the 97th ranked Hsieh, who had reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. As expected, the Belgian had to deal with the rustiness in her game as seen in her 54 unforced errors, but she still managed to remain competitive and fight Hsieh right till the end of the two-hour and 18-minute encounter before Hsieh managed to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

The Belgian, a mother-of-three, said that getting through a difficult match like this without having any major physical concerns was a big positive for her.

“Obviously, it was exciting to go back out there after a long period of recovery,” Clijsters said after her match as quoted by the WTA Tour. “Super excited to be here and to start my match. The match, you know, some good things and bad things, inconsistency. Physically being able to get through these matches without big concerns, that was the main goal. I came close today, but I still have a good feeling. I’ve made progression, and I think that’s the most important thing. What I’m looking at is that I’m improving overall, and that’s the positive thing.”

Clijsters is not looking at short-term gains in her latest comeback effort. The Belgian says she is inspired by former men’s world No 1 Andy Murray. The Brit has returned from two hip surgeries and said that he would like to return to the top 10.

“Seeing Andy Murray and the way he speaks about his comeback and everything, it’s so motivating and it gives you a lot of energy too,” Clijsters said before her first-round match to the WTA Tour. “To see him go through the things he’s gone through and be open about the challenges of it and the belief that he has, I feel like it’s something I can relate to.”

Four Americans reach the second round in Chicago

Hseih’s reward for her win is a second round encounter against sixth seed Ons Jabeur, in what should be an exciting contest between two of the tour’s craftiest players.

In other matches in Chicago on Monday, four Americans advanced to the second round. Ninth seed Jessica Pegula defeated qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-0, 10th seed Danielle Collins scored a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens, Ann Li defeated Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-1, and Shelby Rogers scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Lizette Cabrera.

Former US Open finalist Madison Keys was not able to join her countrywoman as she was forced to pull out of her first-round encounter due to a shoulder injury against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, of Belarus, while trailing 6-4, 2-0.

Also winning on Monday were Olympic silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova, a 6-2, 6-1 win over Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2, 6-1, Dayana Yastremska, who beat Alizé Cornet 7-5, 6-1; Veronika Kudermetova, who overcame qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-2, and qualifier Mai Hontama, who won her WTA main draw debut with a upset over Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-0.

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