When she announced her comeback in September, Clijsters said it was a way to "challenge herself" and a first round draw against Australian Open finalist Muguruza gave her a baptism of fire which saw the Belgian overwhelmed in straight sets. Despite the scoreline, Clijsters put up a commendable fight, countering Muguruza's impressive form and almost serving up a plot twist after a late second-set surge.
The 36-year-old, who last played at the US Open second round in 2012 and has given birth to two children in the interim, saw a knee injury delay her plans to return for the January Australian swing. But last night in Dubai she showed no signs of that hindering her. Over one hour and 37 minutes she offered glimpses of the player that won four Grand Slams, producing some stellar winners, and even gave a taster of her famous splits as she commandeered the court once again.
— WTA (@WTA) February 17, 2020
But Clijsters was on the back foot from the onset, broken in her first service game by fellow former world No 1 Muguruza and showing some rustiness on her serve in recording 10 double faults. After going a set and 3-0 down, though, Clijsters injected new energy into her game and broke back twice to force the tiebreak.
Ultimately two-time major champion Muguruza overcame the late threat, beating Clijsters 6-2, 7-6(5). The Spaniard applauded her Hall of Famer opponent at the net, and afterwards said she was not surprised by the challenge Clijsters posed.
"It was a special match, I'm happy to be the one to face her. I think she's going to give [everyone] a hard time," Muguruza said. "I think it was very good. A player that played incredible can play incredible again so I was expecting it to be hard."
Clijsters next plays at the Monterrey Open in two weeks' time.