Clijsters stands in way of Henin's fairytale return
Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have found themselves back in the old days after the pair, who grew up playing junior tennis together, set up a tantalising all-Belgian final at the Brisbane International yesterday.
Henin, playing her first tournament since her shock retirement in 2008, crushed Serbia's Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-2 in a little over an hour in their semi-final.
Then Clijsters, who won last year's US Open after making her own fairytale comeback, demolished Germany's Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-2 in an ominous sign of her intentions for this month's Australian Open.
"I don't think anyone around the world expected to see this again," Clijsters said of meeting Henin in the final. "I look forward to it. Back to the old days.
"We grew up playing U-12s and sharing rooms together and we have history together."
The former Fed Cup team-mates have already played each other 22 times before, with Henin holding a 12-10 advantage, but today's final will be their first clash since the 2006 Wimbledon semi-finals.
"There is so much respect between the two of us so, I know sometimes people would love to hear there have been problems between us, but that's not the case," Henin said.
"We are so different, but we have good memories. When we were younger we were travelling a lot together...but after that we grew up differently and went in different directions."
Henin had a surprisingly straightforward day as she defeated Ivanovic in a lopsided match on centre court.
Playing her fourth match in five days, the super-fit Henin showed no signs of rustiness or fatigue as she provided a glimpse of the form that helped her win seven Grand Slam titles.
"It's a perfect situation for me as I'm in the final of my first tournament, it's a great feeling," she said.
"I didn't know what to expect with ups and downs this week.
"I need a few more months to really be at my top. I have to remember it's my first tournament back."
Clijsters looked to be in for a tough afternoon after she was locked at 4-4 with Petkovic in the opening set, but reeled off the next six games to seize control of the match.
In the men's event, American Andy Roddick and Czech Tomas Berdych both won their quarter-finals to join holder Radek Stepanek and Gael Monfils in today's semi-finals.
Roddick sent down 16 aces in beating Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-3 7-6 after Berdych edged past Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 2-6 7-6.
"I knew I had to come out and play a lot more aggressively than I have had so far this tournament," Roddick said.
Roddick is pulling out of this year's Davis Cup competition in a bid to avoid aggravating a knee injury.
"I'm not playing Davis Cup this year," Roddick added yesterday. "I'm not retiring from Davis Cup."
The 27-year-old injured his left knee last October, and the Australian Open warm-up in Brisbane is his first tournament back. The US are scheduled to play Serbia in the first round on indoor clay in Belgrade from March 5-7.
Roddick has played 22 Davis Cup matches, including the 2007 final win over Russia, and has a 31-11 win-loss record in singles. He is No 7 in the world rankings, but has been as high as No 1 and has been the leading singles player for the US for most of his Davis Cup career.
Roddick said he and his trainers decided that it wouldn't be good for the knee to change court surfaces too frequently.
"At this point, we felt it was smartest in terms of long-term health," Roddick said. "It certainly wasn't an easy decision."
Roddick said he made himself unavailable for the Davis Cup season because he couldn't commit to the best-of-five series in Serbia.
"In Davis Cup, my view has always been you decide at the beginning of the year if you're going to go through everything or not," he said.
"It certainly wasn't an easy decision, but I do feel comfortable in that we have capable players that are ready and willing to step in."