MONTERREY, Mexico - Kim Clijsters' latest comeback tour is taking the Hall of Famer to places she's never been.
Two weeks ago, the 36-year-old returned to competitive tennis after a nearly seven-year absence at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in what was also her tournament debut, and the four-time Grand Slam champion is set to make another this week at the Abierto GNP Seguros.
"From the moment we got picked up at the airport, people have been really friendly. It's a very beautiful area. I'm excited to be here and to be playing here in Monterrey, and for the first time in South America," Clijsters told the media on Sunday ahead of the tournament.
"The other Belgians who've played here in the past told me about it at Fed Cup. [Victoria] Azarenka told me that it was a great tournament to come and play at. They were right. It's nice to be here."
A wildcard into the draw this week in Mexico, the still-unranked Belgian will face No.2 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain in the first round as her third stint on the WTA continues to find its feet.
The match will be Clijsters' second against a Top 20 player in as many events after she lost a hard-fought 6-2, 7-6(6) match to Garbiñe Muguruza in Dubai.
Two points away from winning the second set against the Australian Open runner-up, the 36-year-old feels that her first month back on the professional circuit has been full of positives.
"I feel like with the tennis that I've been playing, I'm improving. I still have a good level in me. I'm still at the stage where I feel like I need match rhythm," Clijsters said.
"I've played one official match so far, and some practice sets. I would like to have more matches, and that's the only way that I can practice certain things that you can only learn from matches.
"In practice, I'm moving better, I'm reacting better, I'm making better decisions. It has to happen in the match now. I think the more matches I get to play, the more that will improve a little bit, and we'll see how far I can go."
After ending her 2019 season after the US Open due to a knee injury, British No.1 Konta is also searching for matchplay of her own in Monterrey. The World No.15 is 0-3 in singles to start the season, but reached the doubles semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy last month alongside Caroline Garcia.
Konta is also in the doubles draw this week partnering Elina Svitolina, who is the tournament's top seed in singles.
The match against Konta will be another first for former World No.1 Clijsters, as she and the Brit have never played.
"I haven't seen that many players yet. I've played one tournament, and I'm really trying to focus on my tennis and my fitness, so I'm not around as much," Clijsters continued.
"I've seen a lot of new faces, a lot of girls that I don't know, but that I'm starting to get to know a little bit. I've been practicing with different girls, and that's been fun.
"There are also girls that I know really well. Azarenka, I saw her yesterday, or Simona Halep [a practice partner in Dubai], who I've seen for many years."
Regardless of what comes to her this week in Mexico, Clijsters' comeback will continue to gain steam throughout the spring. Last week, she was awarded a wildcard for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where she is a two-time champion.
"It's a process. It's a process of ups and downs, and I think that's something you have to understand. It comes with failure, but I think it's how you deal in the moments where it's the toughest," she said.
"That's when you improve the most, when you learn the most about yourself and when you're capable of improving. I think that was something I was always able to do well.
"When I lost in the past I was disappointed, but after a certain about of time, I was able to make that switch in my head and use it, and that's how I was able to become better. I think it's that kind of mindset. It's important to not get discouraged about the losses, and use it to motivate you even more."