Kim Clijsters won a dramatic semi-final battle of the Belgians against Justin Henin to reach the final of the Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday.
The 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 victory means Clijsters will play for a 37th career title today against Venus Williams, who earlier cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over France’s Marion Bartoli.
Clijsters dominated the opening set of her encounter with Henin, but then, having been 3-0 up in the second, lost out in a tiebreak to allow the game into a decisive third set.
Neither of the two former world No. 1s, who have both made comebacks to the game, dominated on serve and Clijsters produced a double fault when serving for the match.
After losing the first two points of the tiebreak, Clijsters roared back to take a 6-3 lead, but once again Henin refused to roll over.
She won the next three points to close to 6-6 before Clijsters produced two great shots — a volley close to the net and then a forehand across the court — to win the match.
Henin praised Clijsters for coming up with the big shots at the right moment.
“It wasn’t a great match, but she played better on the important points,” Henin said. “She was more aggressive and took the opportunities and I think that really made the difference.”
Clijsters also won on a tiebreak the last time the pair met in the final of the Brisbane Open in January.
“It was a very, very similar game and it is pretty crazy to have two matches like that with each other so early in the year,” Clijsters said.
“It’s a good win, but now I am focusing on Saturday, there won’t be any celebrating whatsoever, the tournament is not over,” she added.
■BERDYCH VS SODERLING
Czech Tomas Berdych fought back from a set down to beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 on Thursday and set up a Sony Ericsson Open semi-final against Robin Soderling.
Berdych, the No. 16 who eliminated top seed Roger Federer in the previous round, struggled in the opening set, but came out on top in the tiebreak in the second and produced an aggressive display in the deciding third set.
After another impressive win, Berdych will be confident of getting through to tomorrow’s final. Andy Roddick and Rafa Nadal were to meet in yesterday’s first semi-final.
“The start was quite slow for me because I was still feeling a little bit tired after the long, long match against Roger that finished late in the night,” Berdych said. “But then finally I found my rhythm.”
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