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Siniakova stops returning Clijsters: Gauff to meet Garcia in Indian Wells

Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic put a halt to the comeback of two-time champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open here, while former world No.4 Caroline Garcia of France and former world No.11 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia were also among the early winners on Day 2, as each came from a set down to advance to the second round.

Siniakova stops returning Clijsters: Gauff to meet Garcia in Indian Wells
Image Courtesy: IANS

Former world No. 1 Clijsters, who was making her first appearance in 10 years at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday evening, was outlasted by Siniakova 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, in an hour and 36 minutes. 

In the Czech's first meeting with Clijsters, Siniakova fended off a valiant second-set comeback from the four-time major champion before regrouping in the third set and collecting her first singles win at Indian Wells since 2018.

"It was really special," Siniakova said on court, after her win. "I was actually looking forward (to this), because I remember when I was young, and I was watching her play, and she always did amazing. So it's unbelievable I could stay with her on the court," she told

By moving forward, Siniakova sets up a second-round meeting with another former world No.1 and multiple-Grand Slam champion, No.10 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Clijsters won the BNP Paribas Open in 2003 and 2005, and last played the event in 2011 before her retirement in 2012. After an eight-year absence from the tour, Clijsters returned to action early last season, and she went 0-3 in 2020 after close losses to Garbine Muguruza of Spain, Johanna Konta of Great Britain, and Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia.

Clijsters made her 2021 season debut last week in Chicago, losing to Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan in three sets. The Belgian has now played five matches since her return, and though she has been in contention in all of them, she is still looking for the first win of her comeback.

"Last week in Chicago, I started off well, but had a few games where I just really wasn't into the match," Clijsters said after the match. "Here too, just looking for my rhythm, my anticipation again, reading my opponents, getting used to playing on a bigger court again, a lot of different things. I fought my way into the match well in that second set, and I kind of put her under pressure a little bit better.

"I think overall, there's definitely moments where I'm feeling really good out there, and there's moments where I feel too inconsistent. That's part of this process in general, it's not going to be a smooth ride, and that's what I'm going to try to improve every time I'm out there."

This time, it was world No.53 Siniakova who got the better of Clijsters, taking advantage of key points more than the 38-year-old former No.1 did. Each player held nine break points, but Siniakova converted six of hers, while Clijsters could only convert three.

Former top-10 player Caroline Garcia of France will be American teenager Coco Gauff's first opponent in her debut at the BNP Paribas Open, after the Frenchwoman sealed a 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens on Thursday. 

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