Former world number one Kim Clijsters made a triumphant return to tennis on Monday beating 12th seed Marion Bartoli of France in straight sets at the WTA event in Cincinnati.
Clijsters, who retired over two years ago, swept aside Bartoli 6-4 6-3 in the first round of the $2 million tournament. “I was really excited to be out there. It has been so long I’ve been practicing for this. To finally be here, it was exciting,” Clijsters told the official WTA Tour Web site www.sonyericssonwtatour.com. “I am excited I will be playing another match, that it’s not over after my first one.” Bartoli, who recently won the Stanford title beating Venus Williams in the final, said her Belgian opponent showed little sign of her layoff. “Without playing a match for two years, it is pretty amazing the level she already has right now,” she said. Clijsters immediately lit up the featured night match by winning the first four games with strong play from the baseline. But Bartoli evened it up at 4-4 before a further break of service saw Clijsters one set to the good. In the second set, Clijsters gained an early break, saw off a break point in the fifth game to hold for a 4-1 lead, and she fought back from 0-40 down to serve out the match. Clijsters, who got married soon after retiring and gave birth to a baby daughter in February 2008, will next play old rival Patty Schnyder.
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The Swiss star, who beat Argentina’s Gisela Dulko earlier on Monday 6-4 6-0, is looking forward to their meeting, despite being 2-5 lifetime against her. “We all miss her on the Tour. She has always been a fan favorite and great for the sport. I really hope she enjoys it again and stays with us for a while,” Schnyder said. American Serena Williams, seeded second here behind world number one Dinara Safina, has also been impressed by Clijsters. “I look like I had a kid more than she does,” Williams told reporters. “She looks amazing.” Clijsters is in the same half of the draw as Safina. In other action, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, a former world number one, came from a set down to beat American Melanie Oudin 2-6 6-1 6-1.