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February 17, 2020

Kim Clijsters

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

G. MUGURUZA/K. Clijsters

6-2, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It's still there, isn't it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: A little bit (smiling).

No, 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.

Q. Can you try and describe your emotions when you stepped on the court, then the second set when the crowd was rallying behind you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, it felt great. Obviously for me, I've never played here so I didn't know how do you get to the stadium, how do you do the walk, then walking through the banners, the people cheering you on.

It works. It's motivational. Seeing some of the Belgians and the Belgian flags, it's nice. It's a nice feeling. It helps in moments like this or in moments like the first set where I feel like, Okay, I have to work my way into the matches.

To have that support, it definitely helps each time to step onto the line and kind of forget about what just happened and the mistake and just take it from scratch again and just be positive and work your way through a match and fight. It was nice to have the support, seeing a lot of the Belgian flags, like I said.

So, yeah, I always used to like playing night matches. I felt like in the beginning with my serve, with the dark sky, my timing was off at times. Yeah, just little things that I have to get used to step by step. But it was fun.

Q. You mentioned a couple days ago your expectations are not results oriented. For someone who has won so much and been at the top, talk about the mentality shift.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think I said it also yesterday in my press conference. I talk a lot about feeling when I'm out there. Of course, you play tennis because you want to win your matches. I felt like I had an opportunity to win that second set.

There's a moment of disappointment where you try to, like, have it all sink in, kind of just go through, run your brain through the match again, see this is what happened through that first set, what made me change also the belief and just knowing that I felt like I could go toe-to-toe with her in the rallies.

She played well, played really well when I had a couple breakpoints. Served well. That was probably one of the biggest differences today, was how well she served when she had to come up with great shots.

Q. One match, but do you see any difference in the tennis, per se, since you've gone?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It's hard to say. It's hard to say. I had a good feeling out there. I do feel a little bit of I'm not going to say relief, but a feeling of the pace I can handle. Obviously she's probably not the hardest hitter out there. There's some girls that hit the ball a lot harder. I felt like I was able to go toe-to-toe with her from the baseline.

But, yeah, I think it's too soon for me to say this is what has changed compared to eight years ago or so. It's tough for me to already comment and give you a clear, good answer.

Q. Is there any part of what you did out there that surprised you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Probably sliding to the ball a couple of times was something. Yeah, I think Sam told me don't do it, not yet. I was like, Sam, you know it's going to come. Sam is my trainer. You know it's going to happen if I need to have a little bit more reach to the ball.

But, yeah, I think also the fight a little bit, being able to come back, not let my head down when I was down in that second set. It's not a surprise, but it's a good feeling knowing that's still somewhere in there. Yeah, I'm happy with those things.

Q. Will you fly away tomorrow or whenever, how would you sum up the whole experience?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think the whole team, we realize this has been the ideal situation for me to come back. The preparation, just being able to do our thing, just preparing. I think from Thursday onwards I started practicing here. Just every day I felt like I was getting better and better.

Obviously with the draw changing, at first it was going to be a Tuesday start, then it changed to Monday. Overall I felt ready. I was like, Okay, I'm ready to play my first match. Just tried to take it all in.

I think this whole week has been a big step forward for me and the whole team.

Q. The 'why not' was right for you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah (smiling). But I always felt like that, you know what I mean? I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have that belief somehow. It doesn't mean that this is a confirmation or something for me. It might take 10 matches to get the way I played in the second set, might take me 10 matches to get that from start to finish.

I have patience, believe it or not. I'm going to, yeah, work my way into it and fight. We'll see what happens.

Q. You spoke about feeling it. Before you thought of coming back, did you also consider injuries, coming back at 36, or did you just go with the feeling and keep the negatives out?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, I think as an athlete you know that injuries can happen. You try to be professional enough and prepare yourself as good as possible so that injuries or bad injuries won't happen.

I think there's a lot of players who play with little nig-nags and little stuff, which is not something that I'm worried about. Obviously the big injuries you try to stay away from.

I don't want to think about that because I feel like when you start putting negative thoughts in your head, you kind of draw them to you.

But I have a good team around me with people who I completely trust their view on how to take care of my body, how to prepare myself physically, mentally. I feel really lucky with the team I have around me.

Within myself, I've said it a few times to some of my team members, but I've thought about it on the inside. I feel really, really good with the team around me. I think that's the first step because it's not easy to, from the start, find someone who you talk the same tennis language with as I do with my coach, with Fred. Then Sam, obviously my trainer, he's been working with me for a long time.

But just to know that the work we have put in, yeah, I feel like we're going in the right direction. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're going in the right direction. That's really important.

Q. Obviously everyone remembers the iconic moment when your daughter came on court when you won the US Open. What kind of reaction did you get from your kids?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I haven't talked to them yet. For some reason it's really hard here to get on FaceTime, all that stuff. It's been video messaging, trying to leave some voice messages here and there. I haven't been able to be in touch as much as I would like to.

But, yeah, I haven't spoken to them so I can't really say how they feel.

Q. Their reaction to your decision, what kind of conversations did you have with them?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Mixed. Jada is like, Mom, do it. If you feel like doing it, just do it.

Jack, our middle child, he was like, Mom, I hope you lose your first match, then you can come home quicker.

Just different feelings. The youngest is too young to really understand, but the support is there. They see me practice and they play some tennis at the academy, as well.

Yeah, it's different than, whatever, 10 years ago when Jada was on tour. They're older. Jada can understand. She plays basketball. She sees me at night when I'm in the gym. She comes down to the gym with me. We do exercises together. We stretch, little things like that.

It makes me think of how it used to be when I was younger. My dad was rehabbing his knee for soccer. Yeah, just funny how kind of moments that you can kind of relate to what it used to be.

Yeah, it's fun. They'll start traveling a little bit more now in the next few weeks when I go to Monterey and Indian Wells. It will be nice to have them with me.

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