Kim Clijsters took solace in feeling like she had periods of dominance against Garbine Muguruza, who ensured the four-time major champion's comeback began with a defeat.

Making her first appearance on the WTA Tour since the 2012 US Open, former world number one Clijsters fell to a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) defeat against Australian Open finalist Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The 36-year-old dropped her first two service games in the second set but managed to get things back on serve and force a tie-break, something she was proud of despite her early exit.

Clijsters said: "I felt obviously the second set was a big difference compared to the first set. My timing in the first set, my footing, just kept looking for it.

"I felt a few times it was there, then it would be off a few points. At times I felt like I was close. I was seeing the ball clear. Just started reading her game better, as well, getting used to her pace a little bit.

"Yeah, second set I felt I was really in the match. I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

"I think that's a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set, with the type of tennis I played, it's something that is the positive about this match. I'll take that with me for the next matches.

"I had a good feeling out there. I do feel a little bit of, I'm not going to say relief, but a feeling that the pace I can handle."

Muguruza accepted she went into the match completely unsure of what to expect, with Clijsters representing something of an unknown quantity, though she is now anticipating the Belgian to cause problems for plenty of players.

"I think she played very well, especially in the second set at the end," Muguruza said. "It was very tight.

"I think this is just special because I didn't know how [Clijsters was] going to play. I know she can play incredible - she did at some point play [at an] incredible level. I haven't seen her play in so long, so it's like, 'Okay, what's going to happen?'

"I'm sure she's going to get better and better, for sure, [and] give us a lot of trouble."

Clijsters' fellow Belgian Elise Mertens was in action earlier in the day and had significantly fewer issues, cruising past Wang Qiang in straight sets.

Mertens needed a little over an hour to secure her progression, ultimately running out a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victor – winning the second set in just 25 minutes.

World number 18 Alison Riske suffered a shock 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 defeat at the hands of Ons Jabeur, who set up a second-round clash with Simona Halep.

The Tunisian, who is ranked 45th in the world, eventually came out on top and owed much to her ability to hit a winner, outscoring Riske 28 to 11 in that metric as she claimed a seventh career win over a top-20 opponent.

Barbora Strycova came through a lengthy encounter with 18-year-old Amanda Animisova, beating the American 6-3 (7-3) 2-6 6-4 over two hours and 33 minutes, taking advantage of her opponent's proneness to errors.

Marketa Vondrousova was the highest-ranked player in action on Tuesday, and she dispatched Anastasija Sevastova with relative ease, winning 6-3 6-2.

Kim Clijsters was denied a dream return to the WTA Tour as she was beaten in straight sets by Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Muguruza, runner-up at the recent Australian Open, triumphed 6-2 7-6 (8-6) in one hour and 37 minutes on Monday.

Playing her first match since losing to Laura Robson in the second round of the US Open in August 2012, the Belgian was rusty at times as she racked up 10 double faults and gave up 15 break points.

However, Clijsters' fight and impressive groundstrokes in the second set would have given her plenty of hope for the months ahead.

Clijsters' opponent changed when Kiki Bertens withdrew from the event after winning in St Petersburg, but in-form Muguruza represented a similarly daunting first task in her comeback contest.

The 36-year-old was broken in a 10-point opening game and dropped serve again later in the first set.

She forced her first break points as Muguruza served for the opener at 5-2 but could not convert three opportunities as the Spaniard held.

A slow start also impacted four-time major champion Clijsters in the second set, as Muguruza claimed an immediate break and then struck once more in her opponent's next service game to move 3-0 up.

Clijsters showed grit and broke Muguruza for the first time in game four and later superbly claimed a second break to level matters, eventually forcing a tie-break.

She won the first two points of the breaker only for her younger rival to go on a streak of four that included a superb cross-court forehand winner.

At 6-5 in front, Muguruza hit a forehand long on her opening match point but she ultimately sealed victory with her next opportunity thanks to an unreturned serve

Dominic Thiem says returning to the clay courts is "like coming home" as he prepares for a first match since his dramatic Australian Open final defeat to Novak Djokovic.

The Austrian was one set away from winning his first grand slam title in Melbourne, only for Djokovic to edge a thrilling encounter 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4.

After two weeks to recover from what Thiem acknowledged was a tough defeat to take, the world number four is reflecting positively and looking forward to playing again as top seed at the Rio Open.

Thiem starts his campaign against home hope Felipe Meligeni Alves on Tuesday and is the only top-20 player taking part in the ATP 500 event.

"Coming on clay is like coming home," Thiem, a 2017 winner in Rio, said to the ATP Tour. "I like the surface and also really like South America. It's a completely different atmosphere.

"I've had great experiences, won here, won Buenos Aires twice, so it's very easy for me to come back here."

Of his Australian Open exploits, Thiem added: "I feel great about the performance in Melbourne. It was a hell of a two weeks, beating three top-10 guys and then losing to Novak Djokovic 6-4 in the fifth.

"Of course, it was a huge disappointment. But after some time to reflect, it was a great tournament and start to the season. I hope to keep that good form going." 

At a period of the season where hard-court tournaments return to the schedule in Indian Wells and Miami next month, Thiem is not worried about his momentum being disrupted.

He said: "For me, it's no problem to play on clay for one or two weeks and then switch back to hard courts."

Kyle Edmund defeated Andreas Seppi in straight sets to capture the New York Open title on Sunday.

Briton Edmund – contesting his first ATP Tour final since 2018 – claimed a 7-5 6-1 victory in New York.

The eighth-seeded Edmund prevailed over Italian opponent Seppi after one hour, 21 minutes for his second ATP crown.

Edmund, who reached the 2018 Australian Open semi-finals, used his serve to see off Seppi on the American hard courts at the 250 tournament.

The South Africa-born Edmund won 31 of his 33 first serve points and did not face a break point throughout the match.

Edmund broke three times en route to his first trophy since winning the 2018 European Open in Belgium.

Casper Ruud became the first Norwegian to claim an ATP Tour title after winning the Argentina Open.

Ruud made history with a comprehensive 6-1 6-4 victory over Portugal's Pedro Sousa in Sunday's final in Buenos Aires.

The 21-year-old also became the youngest Argentina Open champion – surpassing 2004 winner Guillermo Coria (22).

Ruud's win means he will become Norway's highest ranked male player ever – projected to climb to 34th – taking the record from his dad Christian, who reached 39th in the world in 1995.

Playing on red clay at the ATP 250 tournament, Ruud was a class above as he won all nine of his services games without facing a break point.

Ruud also broke three times in the one hour, 11-minute contest, including the first return game of the match to set the tone.

Sousa hit back-to-back double faults in the opening game of the second set to gift Ruud the break, and the eighth seed never looked back en route to a maiden crown.

Kiki Bertens outclassed Elena Rybakina to retain her St Petersburg Ladies' Trophy title and Magda Linette won the Thailand Open on Sunday.

Bertens became the first player to win back-to-back titles in St Petersburg, easing to a 6-1 6-3 victory over eighth seed Rybakina.

World number eight Bertens, who was due to face the returning Kim Clijsters in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships before withdrawing this weekend, was in tears after losing just one set this week to claim a 10th WTA title.

She saved all five break points she faced, securing a first title this year.

"I never expect any match to be easy. It didn't feel easy, of course, even though the scoreline was. At the end, I felt a little bit nervous, but I was just happy to close it out," second seed Bertens said. 

"I just tried to approach every point the same, no matter what the score is. Sometimes, on a break point, you go for a little more on serve, and that's what I did today."

Linette sealed the second WTA Tour title of her career with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of qualifier Leonie Kung in Hua Hin.

Teenager Kung, playing in the main draw of an event at this level for only the second time, failed to break Linette's serve and was made to pay for being unable to hold on three occasions.

Gael Monfils followed up last week's third Open Sud de France title by defending his Rotterdam Open crown, dealing teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime further ATP Tour final agony.

In-form world number nine Monfils triumphed at the Montpellier championship the previous Sunday and made it nine straight Tour wins with a 6-2 6-4 success this time.

Canada's Auger-Aliassime, on the other hand, is still waiting for his first senior career title and was never really in the contest as Monfils ended the week without dropping a set.

Playing his fourth Tour final after a trio of 2019 defeats, the 19-year-old made a nervous start and was required to rescue three break points in just the third game after some wayward initial work with the forehand.

Auger-Aliassime merely delayed the setback until his next service game, though, Monfils coming out on top for a 3-2 lead as the pair did battle at the net.

Following a brief Monfils scare, Auger-Aliassime went long when defending a third break opportunity next time out and slipped further behind, allowing the third seed to serve out the opener.

There was no improvement from the Canadian when the match resumed, the second set beginning with a series of errors and a crushing break to love.

Monfils stylishly got the better of an apparently defeated Auger-Aliassime at the net to tee up another three openings, taking the last of them.

The Frenchman stuttered badly when serving for the championship and lost one of his breaks as Auger-Aliassime belatedly rallied, but the victory was eventually sealed.

Kim Clijsters revealed she could not ignore the recurring temptation to come out of retirement as she prepares to make her WTA Tour comeback against Garbine Muguruza.

The former world number one will come up against Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday, seven and a half years after her last professional match.

Clijsters, who will face Muguruza rather than Kiki Bertens after the world number eight withdrew from the tournament, had to delay her return due to a knee injury.

The 36-year-old four-time grand slam singles champion raised eyebrows last September when announcing she would play at the highest level again.

Clijsters 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 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 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.

Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi will meet in the New York Open final after comfortable wins on Saturday.

Edmund reached his third ATP Tour decider and first since 2018 with a 6-1 6-4 thrashing of Miomir Kecmanovic in their semi-final.

The British eighth seed needed just 71 minutes to brush past Kecmanovic, converting three of seven break points.

Awaiting Edmund in the final of the ATP 250 tournament is Seppi after the Italian veteran beat qualifier Jason Jung 6-3 6-2.

Seppi, 35, is a three-time title winner on the ATP Tour, although the last of those came in 2012.

At the Argentina Open, Norwegian eighth seed Casper Ruud overcame Juan Ignacio Londero 4-6 7-5 6-1 in their semi-final.

Ruud's win means he will become Norway's highest ranked male player ever, taking the record from his dad Christian, who reached 39th in the world in 1995.

Into his second ATP final, Ruud will face Pedro Sousa after the lucky loser's run continued.

Sousa moved through after Diego Schwartzman withdrew from their semi-final due to a leg injury.

The Argentinian had struggled late in his win over Pablo Cuevas on Friday, when he needed three hours, 41 minutes to advance.

Felix Auger-Aliassime will meet in-form defending champion Gael Monfils in the Rotterdam Open final after both players won their last-four encounters in straight sets.

Canadian teenager Auger-Aliassime will be seeking his first ATP Tour title after losing all three of his showpiece matches in his breakout campaign last year.

He sealed his place in the final with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta in a contest lasting one hour and 49 minutes on Saturday.

Unseeded Auger-Aliassime sent down 16 aces, one of which came on match point, and lost only three of his 48 points on first serve, saving all of the four break points he faced in an impressive outing.

"I was serving the best I've ever served in that first set and then played a solid tie-break," he said after reaching his first final on a hard court.

"In the second set, things got interesting with that long third game [when Auger-Aliassime broke]. I was thinking, 'If this goes my way, it might be tough for him'. So, I really pushed to get through."

Monfils is eyeing back-to-back triumphs, having come into this tournament after winning the Open Sud de France on home soil last week.

He defeated Filip Krajinovic in the semi-finals there and repeated the trick against the Serbian this time, winning 6-4 7-6 (7-5) in a display that saw him hit 35 winners.

"It would be great [to win this title again]," said the Frenchman, who like Auger-Aliassime sealed his victory with an ace.

"It would be unbelievable. It would be the first time to win two titles in a row and actually even the first time to win two titles in the same season, so it would be huge for me."

Monfils, who only gave up one break point against Krajinovic, has never played Auger-Aliassime before.

"Felix is a great guy, a humble guy," said Monfils.

"He is very strong, very talented guy. Definitely, I expect a tough match, but a cool match because I think we might see him for a long time in this stage of tournaments."

Kiki Bertens will defend her St Petersburg Ladies' Trophy title on Sunday after defeating Russian number one Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1 4-6 6-1.

World number eight Bertens, who has been confirmed as Kim Clijsters' first opponent in next week's Dubai Tennis Championships, required a decider on Saturday to secure a third successive win over a Russian opponent.

But despite relinquishing control in the second set, Bertens did not let up in the third as she ultimately cruised through to reach her first singles final since October.

Eighth seed Elena Rybakina will be Bertens' opponent in the final, with the 20-year-old advancing to the biggest final of her career so far with a 3-6 7-5 6-1 defeat of Maria Sakkari.

Elsewhere, in the Thailand Open, teenager Leonie Kung got the better of Nao Hibino to make the final in what is just her second WTA Tour main draw event.

The 19-year-old had to come from a break down in the decider on Saturday but ultimately triumphed 7-5 4-6 6-3.

Kung will face world number 42 Magda Linette in the final, with the Pole having overcome Patricia Maria Tig in her semi-final.

Kim Clijsters will begin her WTA Tour comeback against world number eight Kiki Bertens at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The first-round clash will be the four-time major champion's first professional match in seven and a half years, having retired after the 2012 US Open.

Clijsters, a mother of three, revealed her shock decision to return to tennis last September but a knee injury forced her to sit out the start of the season.

The 36-year-old, a former world number one, was granted a wildcard for the singles tournament in Dubai, which begins on Monday.

Diego Schwartzman came through a marathon battle in the Argentina Open quarter-finals, while Reilly Opelka's title defence was ended in New York.

Schwartzman, the top seed in Buenos Aires, needed three hours, 41 minutes to edge Pablo Cuevas 5-7 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 in an epic battle at the ATP 250 tournament.

The Argentinian, last year's runner-up, saved four match points in the second set before overcoming Cuevas.

Schwartzman managed two breaks of serve in the deciding set, including the decisive one in the 12th game.

Awaiting him in the semi-finals is Pedro Sousa, the lucky loser continuing his run with a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over Thiago Monteiro.

Casper Ruud will face Juan Ignacio Londero in the other semi-final after their respective wins over Dusan Lajovic and Guido Pella.

At the New York Open, Opelka's title defence came to an end with a 5-7 6-4 6-4 loss to qualifier Jason Jung.

Opelka served 24 aces, but the 2019 champion was broken twice to fall to defeat in one hour, 52 minutes.

Jung will meet Andreas Seppi in a semi-final after the Italian veteran got past Jordan Thompson 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-1.

Kyle Edmund advanced thanks to a 3-6 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win against Kwon Soon-woo, while Miomir Kecmanovic beat Ugo Humbert 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Kiki Bertens' bid to retain her St Petersburg Ladies Trophy title remains alive but Petra Kvitova's run in Russia came to an end as she pulled out due to illness.

World number eight Bertens defeated teenage qualifier Anastasia Potapova 6-4 7-6 (7-3) having staved off three set points in a second set in which she was 5-2 down.

Bertens will face Ekaterina Alexandrova next after she was handed a walkover when third seed Kvitova withdrew.

Top seed Belinda Bencic was ousted by Maria Sakkari in three sets, with Elena Rybakina beating Oceane Dodin in the other quarter-final.

At the Thailand Open, world number four Elina Svitolina suffered a surprise straight-sets loss to Nao Hibino, who was joined in the semi-finals by Magda Linette, Patricia Maria Tig and Leonie Kung.

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