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Henin fairytale is coming true

The fairytale continues for Justine Henin. The Belgian is through to the semi-finals of the Australian Open and her dream of winning the championship is suddenly getting closer to reality.

The former world number one booked her place in the last four with a 7-6 7-5 win over Russia's Nadia Petrova. As the scoreline suggests, it was a tight match, but Henin remains the queen of winning the close ones.

Henin is playing only her second tournament since coming out of retirement, and her win was another victory for her golden generation. But her next opponent represents the changing face of women's tennis.

Zheng Jie became the first Chinese to make the semi-finals in Australia when she defeated Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-1 6-3.

It is not the first time Zheng has broken new ground for the world's most populous nation. Four years ago she teamed up with Yan Zi to win the women's doubles in Australia and provide China with a first grand slam title.

Then, in 2008, she became the first Chinese to make the semi-finals at a grand slam when she reached the last four at Wimbledon after the All-England Club gave her a wildcard entry.

Zheng did not need a wildcard to get into Melbourne this time, although her world ranking of 35 was not enough to get her a seeding, and her early matches gave little indication of what was to come. She lost the opening set of her first match to love against compatriot Peng Shuai, then the first set of her next two matches, but she has been steadily building in confidence.

Zheng had no major problems beating Kirilenko, who was appearing in her first grand slam quarter-final and was struggling with a leg injury. She tormented the Russian with her powerful ground strokes and speed around the court.

Zheng is now one of two Chinese left in the women's draw. Li Na also made the quarter-finals and plays Venus Williams tomorrow, raising the once unthinkable possibility of an all-Chinese final.

Beating Kirilenko is one thing, defeating Henin is another, however. The Belgian has already won seven grand slam titles and, while she may be in the early stages of a comeback, she retired prematurely and is still just 27.

Henin was partly inspired to return to the circuit after watching fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters win last year's US Open as a wildcard, after she returned to the court last year. So Henin was also given a wildcard for Melbourne, but never gave any serious thought to winning the championship -- until now.

"Now I can dream of being in the final of this grand slam. I have to try to be focused on what I have to do on the court ," said Henin.

She has had to dig deep to make the semi-finals: she beat fifth seed Elena Dementieva in the second round, world number 16 Yanina Wickmayer in the fourth and faced a tough opponent today in Petrova.

The Russian had already knocked out Clijsters and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on her way to the quarter-finals.

In the first men's quarter-final today, Marin Cilic held off an Andy Roddick fightback to win in five sets .

The Croatian 14th seed was on course for a comfortable win at two sets up as Roddick struggled to cope with a shoulder problem. But the American seventh seed hit back to force a decider, only for Cilic to seal a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 win.


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