DUBAI, UAE – Kim Clijsters' return to the WTA Tour will take place at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she has been pitted against No.6 seed Kiki Bertens in a headline first-round encounter.
The 36-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion has not competed on tour since the 2012 US Open and her return to action as a wildcard promises to be a baptism of fire against the World No.8.
In the same quarter of the draw, No.3 seed Elina Svitolina, who was shocked in the quarterfinals of Hua Hin by Nao Hibino on Friday, will tackle Australian Open finalist Garbiñe Muguruza, who is also competing as a wildcard.
In a stacked top half of the draw, Simona Halep has been handed a first-round bye but will have to face one of the in-form duo of Alison Riske or Ons Jabeur, who will play in the first round.
Meanwhile, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, seeded No.5 for this tournament, will play her first Tour match since that triumph in Melbourne against Elena Rybakina.
She could potentially play World No.3 Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals, with the Czech guaranteed to play a qualifier in the second round. Indeed, five of the six qualifiers have been placed in the lower half of the draw.
No.4 seed and World No.5 Belinda Bencic, who is the defending champion, will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in what promises to be a tough opening encounter for the Swiss, though she has won their last three meetings.
Main draw action in Dubai gets underway on Feb. 17, with the final scheduled for Feb. 22. It is a hard court tournament at Premier level.