Clijsters loses to Muguruza during return to WTA Tour

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Kim Clijsters’ first WTA Tour match since 2012 ended with a 6-2, 7-6 (6) loss to Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Championships on Monday.

The 36-year-old Clijsters is making a second comeback – this time after more than seven years away from professional tennis – but was broken in the opening game against Muguruza, a fellow former No. 1.

Muguruza broke again for a 5-2 lead and was two breaks up at 3-0 in the second set before Clijsters found her stride. The Belgian leveled the set at 4-4 but Muguruza then converted her second match point in the tiebreaker.

“I had a good feeling out there,” Clijsters said. “Second set, I felt I was really in the match.”

The four-time Grand Slam champion announced in September that she was returning to the tour for a second time. She initially retired in 2007, got married and had the first of her three children. She returned about two years later and won her second and third U.S. Opens and an Australian Open. She retired again after the 2012 U.S. Open.

“I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points,” Clijsters said about her match. “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.”

Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.

“I think this is just special because I didn’t know how (Clijsters was) going to play,” Muguruza said. “I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure, give us a lot of trouble.”

Barbora Strycova and Elise Mertens also advanced.

Strycova ousted Amanda Anisimova of the United States 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-4 and Mertens eased past Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-0.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.