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Archive for Monday, January 22, 2007

Hingis, Clijsters to battle again

Pair will collide in Australian Open quarterfinals

January 22, 2007

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— Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters set up their second straight Australian Open quarterfinal showdown with fourth-round victories today.

Hingis, the Swiss star who swept the 1997-99 titles and reached the finals the next three years before quitting the tour because of nagging foot and ankle problems, weathered an early challenge from China's Li Na before winning,

4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Clijsters, the Belgian player in her final season on the tour, edged No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1, 7-5. Last year in the quarterfinals, Clijsters ended Hingis' first run at a major after three seasons in retirement, winning, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

"It's always a pleasure to play her again here," Clijsters said. "She's just a great champion. We get along on and off the court as well."

Hingis has reached the quarterfinals in her last nine trips to Melbourne Park, two since coming back from retirement.

The 23-year-old Clijsters was up 6-1, 3-0 when Hantuchova rallied and got back on serve in the second. Clijsters wasted two match points in the 10th game and had to break serve to finish off the match in 1 hour, 19 minutes. She lost only nine games in three previous matches.

Hingis, coming off three two-set victories, was taken aback by heavy pressure from Li's strong ground strokes in the first set.

"She came out on fire, I've never played her before, I knew it was going to be a difficult match," Hingis said. "I knew I had to come up with the best ... and after the first set I started playing better."

Li was dictating play with stinging shots into the corners in the first set and feasting on Hingis' serve, the weakest part of her game.

Hingis looked shocked as she sat down after losing the first set. But she pulled herself together and started mixing up her game, drawing Li to the net with deft drop shots, then sending up lobs that the Chinese player often whacked way long.

Hingis decided just to keep the ball in play until Li made a mistake. And as the match wore on, Li's unforced errors piled up. She was still going for winners but was looking increasingly dejected.

Hingis ended up with only eight winners, but Li had 69 unforced errors, providing the Swiss star with more than two-thirds of the 102 points that she won.

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