Kim Clijsters lost Monday in her latest return to the WTA Tour, dropping a three-setter against Hsieh Su-wei in the first round of the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic.
It was Clijsters' first match since a first-round loss at the 2020 US Open a little more than a year ago. That was part of a 0-3 record last season after the former No. 1-ranked player made a comeback that was interrupted by knee surgery in October and when she got COVID-19 this January.
Clijsters, a mother of three who wakes up at 5 a.m. at her family’s home in New Jersey to train, received a wild card for the Chicago tournament. But she was eliminated by Hsieh, an Australian Open quarterfinalist who closed out a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory in 2 hours, 18 minutes.
“Some good things, some bad things, and inconsistency,” the 38-year-old Clijsters said. "But I think for me the most important thing is that, what I talked with my coach and my trainer about, my fitness coach, was physically being able to get through these matches without big concerns. That was the main goal.
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“I came close today, but still have a good feeling about, you know I've made progression and I think that's the most important thing.”
Clijsters made it to the French Open final as a teenager in 2001, part of a 0-4 mark in Grand Slam title matches before a triumph at the 2005 US Open. Then came US Open titles in 2009 and 2010 and an Australian Open trophy in 2011.
“We all know she’s a very great, great, great player,” Hsieh said. “Outside the court she’s very nice, very polite, very kind, so I’ve always liked her a lot. ... I’m lucky I didn’t play her 10 years ago.”
Clijsters is staying in Chicago to play doubles with Belgian countrywoman Kirsten Flipkens. But she isn't sure about her plans for the rest of the season.
“I would like to play Indian Wells if I can, if the body holds up good,” she said. “So, at the moment, it's all fine. So I'm excited to try to play many matches and I'm really looking forward to World Team Tennis as well. That's where last year I really felt a big improvement.”
Next up for Hsieh is No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur, who received a bye into the second round.
Danielle Collins, Jessica Pegula and Veronika Kudermetova also advanced on Monday. American Madison Keys retired from her first-round match against Belarus' Aliaksandra Sasnovich because of a right shoulder injury.