Clijsters faces Muguruza on tough return in Dubai

Clijsters, 36, had been due to play Kiki Bertens but the eighth-ranked Dutch player withdrew after reaching the Sunday final in St Petersburg.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters signs autographs ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis tournament.   -  Getty Images

Kim Clijsters faces an unexpectedly tough first match on her comeback after seven years out in Dubai this week - against Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza.

Clijsters, 36, had been due to play Kiki Bertens but the eighth-ranked Dutch player withdrew after reaching the Sunday final in St Petersburg.

READ | Kiki Bertens sets up St Petersburg final with Elena Rybakina

Her absence moved tournament wild card Muguruza into the draw opposite Clijsters, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion and mother-of-three who is making a return after last competing at the 2012 US Open.

Spain’s Muguruza, a two-time Major winner, becomes the ninth seed and will take on Clijsters in the first round at the Aviation Club.

Top seed Simona Halep and number two Karolina Pliskova both have byes into the second round.

- Clijsters says recurring inner feeling prompted comeback -

Kim Clijsters revealed she could not ignore the recurring temptation to come out of retirement. The former world number one had been thinking of resuming her career for some time and encouraging words from her husband were also a factor in making the bold move to get back on the court.

"It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while," said the Belgian, who has also won two major doubles titles.

"Once in a while, that feeling would go away when I was home with the kids. A couple of times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger."

She added: "I talked to my husband. He was like, 'Stop worrying about why and ask yourself: Why not?'. He made a very good point. I was like, 'There is no 'why not'. Why wouldn't I do it?"

Muguruza will be playing for the first time since her Australian Open final defeat to Sofia Kenin.

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