Thursday, October 7, 2021 - Katerina Siniakova plays Kim Clijsters during round 1 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
It had to be tricky facing a four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1, who at 38 is attempting a comeback in a sport she once dominated. But Katerina Siniakova handled the moment with aplomb, defeating Hall of Fame-stamped wildcard Kim Clijsters, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, in the opening-round of the BNP Paribas Open.
“It was really special. I was actually really looking forward to it because I remember when I was young and watching her play,” said the Czech, who for her efforts gets another multi-Slam champion in the second round in Germany’s Angelique Kerber. “It was unbelievable that I could stay with her on the court.”
One of four former champions in the 2021 Indian Wells draw, Clijsters downed American Lindsay Davenport in both the 2003 and 2005 finals. The 2005, 2009 and 2010 US Open, and 2011 Australian Open titlist announced a comeback last year, but has been limited by injuries and a bout with COVID-19. Thursday’s match was only the Belgian’s second tour-level encounter of the year, and her first in the Southern California desert in a decade.
It was a slow start for Clijsters in Stadium 1, a pair of double faults leading to a break in her first service game of the match, and she soon trailed 4-0. But she would turn the tables in the second set, opening with a break of her own and surging ahead 4-0.
The 53rd-ranked Siniakova, a doubles finalist here in 2019 with countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova, held her ground in the third. With her opponent serving at 1-2, 15-40, she converted her fifth break point of the match to move ahead for good.
“I expected a really tough match, even though she had some time off,” said Siniakova, who overcame eight double faults in the one-hour, 36-minute contest. “I was just trying to focus on playing more aggressive. Suddenly, I lost the first game in the second set. I needed to step up.”
Clijsters converted just three of her nine break-point opportunities in the losing effort.
Elsewhere in Tennis Paradise, other standout WTA performances took place across Stadiums 2 – 9:
MARTINA VS. MARIE MARATHON… The physically taxing three-hour, 52-minute opening-round matchup between Italy’s Martina Trevisan and Czech Marie Bouzkova was not only the longest match of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open but the seventh longest women’s match of the Open Era. In the end, it was the qualifier Trevisan who prevailed, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-4. To her credit, Bouzkova overcame some extreme cramping to finish the match.
UPSET IN STADIUM 2… After reaching at least the Round of 16 in both her previous appearances, 37th-ranked Czech Marketa Vondrousova found herself an upset victim in the first round on Thursday, ousted in three sets, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, by Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, ranked No. 46. This summer in Tokyo, Vondrousova took down home-country favorite Naomi Osaka and World No. 6 Elina Svitolina in reaching the final at the Summer Games, settling for a silver medal after falling to another Swiss, Belinda Bencic, in the final.
COCO + LEYLAH DAZZLE… The first-time pairing of teen sensations Coco Gauff (17) and Leylah Fernandez (19) kicked off its 2021 BNP Paribas Open campaign with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 dismissal Irina-Camelia Begu/Renata Voracova in front of a packed Stadium 8 crowd.