Bel­gian come­back queens to re­sume ri­valry in a tough Bris­bane fi­nal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

BEL­GIAN come­back queens Kim Cli­jsters and Justine Henin fol­lowed the script to the let­ter on Fri­day to reach the fi­nal of the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional ten­nis tour­na­ment.

Henin de­mol­ished third seed Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-2 to win the first semi-fi­nal, while Cli­jsters was made to work much harder be­fore over­com­ing un­her­alded Ger­man An­drea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2.

Henin, granted a wild­card to play this week, was ruth­less as she dis­posed of Ivanovic in just 65 min­utes.

There were no signs of any of the rusti­ness she dis­played in her epic three-set win over Melinda Czink in Thurs­day’s quar­ter-fi­nals as she broke Ivanovic three times in ei­ther set.

And while Ivanovic, like Henin a for­mer world num­ber one, was able to break the Bel­gian’s serve in each set, Henin came back even harder to break back al­most im­me­di­ately and un­der­line her com­plete dom­i­nance.

“I’m in the fi­nal of my first tour­na­ment back – it’s a great feel­ing,” Henin said.

“It’s a sur­prise of course, be­cause it’s not as easy as it may seem, be­cause 18 months with no com­pe­ti­tion is not that easy.”

Cli­jsters looked on course for a sim­i­larly easy ride when she broke Petkovic in the open­ing game of the match.

But the Ger­man re­fused to buckle to her more il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nent and broke back later in the set to get the match back on even terms.

How­ever, the greater ex­pe­ri­ence of Cli­jsters be­gan to tell and she grad­u­ally wore her op­po­nent down, tak­ing the match in one hour and 20 min­utes.

Henin and Cli­jsters have set the ten­nis world alight since their re­spec­tive come­backs.

Cli­jsters, who re­tired in May 2007 and had a baby girl, set the ball rolling when she came back mid­way through last year to sen­sa­tion­ally win the US Open.

Soon af­ter that tri­umph, Henin an­nounced that she too would end her re­tire­ment at the beginning of this year, with the Bris­bane In­ter na­tional mark­ing her re­tur n to the court.

From the mo­ment Cli­jsters, 26, and Henin, 27, found them­selves in op­po­site halves of the draw, the prospect of the pair meet­ing in Satur­day’s fi­nal has been the tour­na­ment’s main talk­ing point.

Fierce ri­vals on the court, their ca­reers have also been marred by spec­u­la­tion of se­vere rifts off the court.

Henin, while ad­mit­ting they weren’t close friends, was keen to play down any talk of bad blood.

“Just be­cause we are from the same coun­try does not mean we have to be best friends,” she said.

“(But) there is so much re­spect be­tween the two of us.

“I know some­times peo­ple would love to hear that there have been prob­lems be­tween us but it’s not the case.

“I re­spect her per­son­ally and I re­spect her play and I think it’s the same for her.”

Henin said it was sim­ply a case of two dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties.

“We are so dif­fer­ent. We have good mem­o­ries of when we were younger and we were trav­el­ling a lot to the same tour­na­ments, but af­ter that we grew up dif­fer­ently – we went in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions,” she said. – Sapa-AFP

GALLO

TAKE THAT!: Kim Cli­jsters re­turns against An­drea Petkovic of Ger­many in her semi-fi­nal match yes­ter­day.

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