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February 16, 2020

Kim Clijsters

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I've been waiting for 20 years to see you here. What kept you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Here I am (laughter). Family life, I guess. Good to be here. Good to see a lot of people again, familiar faces, a lot of new faces.

Yeah, excited. Excited to start the journey. I've been practicing for a long time. I look forward to start doing why I decided to do it: to play matches and compete and learn more.

Q. What feelings are coming to your mind doing the pretournament press, probably something you haven't done in a long time.
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I haven't. Yeah, it's just something you switch and you do. You know that it's a part of this job. Obviously what I like to do most is what I'm doing out there: being on the tennis court, working in the gym, work to get better.

I've done this for years, so it's okay. Not quite sick of it yet, so...

Q. What do you think of the draw?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Obviously I was a little curious to see who it was going to be. I don't think it really matters in my situation right now. I still feel like I have a lot of things that I want to focus on myself, want to learn, start to get a feel for things again mentally, physically, emotionally, how I'm going to feel when I'm out there.

So, yeah, I think that was my main concern or goal, is to get a hang of those kind of situations a little bit without having to worry too much.

Obviously there's going to be things, I've seen Muguruza play many matches in the last few years, so I have a little bit of an idea. My coach will, too. We'll discuss it a little bit.

I think I have to start with what I need to start doing in matches. I've been practicing well. It's important to now try to put whatever is going well in practice into a match and see how I will deal with being under pressure, nerves, those kind of things. That's something that I haven't done yet.

That's also why we decided to come to Dubai, is to get into those kind of situations a little bit quicker.

Q. For people who are not following tennis regularly, can you sum up why you are doing this?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while. Kind of talked to a few people. 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.

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

I've enjoyed the challenge. I've enjoyed it since the day I've decided to go for it. It's been with ups and downs. Being 36 years old, you know that's how it's been for your whole career. It is with ups and downs. It's how you mentally stay through it, how strong you stay through those kind of situations.

It's all easy when it goes well, when you don't have to worry about too many things. When things don't go well, that's obviously when you have to be committed and focused. I've been doing that.

I've enjoyed it. It's been an interesting but very challenging process that I'm really enjoying.

Q. How was today's practice with Simona? She said she was nervous before going on court with you.
KIM CLIJSTERS: The feeling was likewise. I've been a big fan of her for a few years. Obviously watching her win French Open, seeing her win Wimbledon, yeah, was great to see for somebody who is such a hard worker.

Obviously her coach Darren I know very well. Been in contact with him. It's through him that we actually booked a practice session today.

Yeah, it was fun. Throughout your career, you have a few players who you know you've had great practice sessions with. In the past there were girls like Schiavone, Ai, Jennifer Capriati way back. There were players, Do you want to practice a few hours? You can work really hard, nothing gets in the way. They don't take anything personally. You like to work hard.

It's wonderful those girls, too, where you can just practice hard, appreciate what the other person is doing across the net.

Yeah, she's great. Just fun to be hitting balls with her.

Q. You met up with Sofia?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I have. I mean, I talked to her some at previous Grand Slams already. Yeah, I was able to talk to her a little bit longer. Obviously since her Australian Open final, I hadn't spoken to her, just through messaging a little bit, but not face-to-face.

It was nice to see her and her father. Just talked a little bit about that moment back in Miami many years ago. Just incredible to see how somebody with goals from that young onwards already can actually achieve them and become a great tennis player. It was nice to see how sometimes you get these amazing moments. It was nice to see.

Q. Are you putting any extra expectations on yourself for the rest of the season or is it a case of seeing how things go this week?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I have expectations. I don't think they're the expectations you would like to hear from me. They're not result related or ranking related. They're more individually for myself.

It's getting a feeling of how I want to play out there. That's the expectation or the goal I'm trying to get to. I have moments now where in practice, This is it, this is how I want to play. I just have to be able to do it in matches now. We'll see if I'm capable of doing that. I'm sure it will take time.

But, yeah, like I said before, I'm kind of ready. I'm done with practicing. I want to be able to, yeah, put in the work in my matches.

Q. Is there any part of all of this that is a little bit scary? Is that not the right word?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I haven't had that feeling of being scared. So far it's still a motivation, yeah. Even doubt... There have been moments where I feel like I need to do this better, but it's never a doubt that I can't do it any more.

That's one of the reasons why I also decided to come back, is because that belief somewhat was still there. I knew there was a long way to go, but that belief it there.

In the past that doesn't change. The experiences that I had from the past, knowing what you have to do to prepare, I think somehow there's stuff that stays in your brain.

I had a little moment like that when I played Venus at Wimbledon, the opening of Court 1. Like there I was scared. Stepping out on court I was like, Why did I say yes to do this?

From the moment I stepped out on court, it was like something popped. I was focused. I had my routines, trying not to step on the lines. Internally I was laughing. What am I doing? Why is this all coming back?

Yeah, it's funny how you remember or some things come back, but then there's a lot of things that you have to really start from zero and just learn again and see.

Obviously it's been a long time. But the belief is there, so that's the start.

Q. What is the difference this comeback to the other comeback?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Two more kids (laughter). Probably that. That's probably the biggest, is the impact on that.

But, yeah, I mean, I feel like I've had the time to work and make sure that issues you can control it. Physically you work hard to try to get to where you want to be, still I'm aiming towards getting to.

I think also balancing everything, working out, scheduling. I'm not going to play a full schedule. I'm just seeing what works, what works for family life, husband, his coaching, the kids.

Yeah, so far it's been pretty easy. I've done all my training during school hours. Half of the time they don't know what I've done all day. So, yeah, once I start traveling a little bit more. After this I go to Monterey, Indian Wells. The kids will travel a little bit.

Yeah, we look forward to it as a family. We've always enjoyed it. I think now it's fun to be able to share that with them, too, just to see the cultures.

Q. Is there any way you see in the last few years that you've been away the women's game change and evolve? Does that present any different challenges?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I've never thought about it in a way that I felt like, What would it be like if I played against them? I never thought like that. It was more when I was in the commentating box talking about Naomi Osaka winning the US Open, winning the Australian Open, Coco Gauff stepping up, Andreescu, the youngsters stepping up on big occasions. A lot of times, first-time Grand Slam finalist, playing some of their best tennis when they had to. That's been very, very impressive to watch.

That would be something that I will have to see for and learn when I'm standing in front of somebody. Like how hard do they hit the ball? How good is their serve? Those kind of things as a commentator you see them, it's so impressive, but how does it feel when you're across the net from them. Just to try to figure out solutions.

Yeah, that's all going to be new for me. Obviously a lot of different names. There's players out there who I've played more than 20 times that are still out there. There's always things that you remember from certain players, certain routines that they have.

But from the younger generation, that's all going to be new for me, as well.

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