Clijsters flies into Melbourne semi against Zvonareva
Kim Clijsters got a lift from an Australia Day flypast to come through a sticky patch against Agnieszka Radwanska and set up an Melbourne Park semi-final against Vera Zvonareva.sports Updated: Jan 26, 2011 11:58 IST
Kim Clijsters got a lift from an Australia Day flypast to come through a sticky patch against Agnieszka Radwanska and set up an Melbourne Park semi-final against Vera Zvonareva on Wednesday.
Clijsters, the only grand slam champion among the women's semi-finalists at the Australian Open, put in another error-strewn performance but raised her game when required to emerge a 6-3 7-6 winner over the defensive Pole.
Zvonareva, who lost to the Belgian in the U.S. Open final last year, was more convincing in the first quarter-final, despatching lanky Czech Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-4 under leaden skies on Rod Laver Arena.
In the absence of injured 2010 champion Serena Williams, third seed Clijsters is favourite to win her first Australian Open crown this year even though she has not been at her best since the first round 6-0 6-0 drubbing of Dinara Safina.
"I just physically felt a little bit tired and heavy out there today, " said Clijsters, who made 37 unforced errors.
"There were rallies where I felt good, I was hitting the ball, there were rallies when I didn't feel right in the position where I should be at."
The 27-year-old Belgian hustled and bustled her way through the opening set in less than half an hour and took a 4-2 lead in the second before allowing Radwanska back into the contest.
The 12th seed won four straight games to put herself on the brink of levelling the match when she served for the set at 5-4, just as an aerobatics team started flying low and loud over the Rod Laver Arena in celebration of the national holiday.
Both knew that this was a key point in the match and slugged it out through 12 points but Radwanska blew some good chances, most notably when she fluffed an easy volley on a third deuce.
"I think the planes took me up higher," Clijsters laughed, before adding: "It was a little scary for me, they looked like they were very low."
Clijsters regathered herself to move the Pole around the court and break back, going on to win the tiebreak 7-4 with a clubbed backhand.
"She was up and down," Radwanska said. "But in the important moments she was playing pretty well and not missing the ball. She was playing good right and left all the time, she makes me run all the time. I think I had a lot of running today."
Australia Day celebrations also proved a distraction for world number two Zvonareva, whose match against Kvitova was accompanied at one stage by a booming 21-gun salute.
Wearing a black ribbon on her visor in memory of the victims of Monday's bombing at Moscow airport, Zvonareva was a class above the Czech, who won the Brisbane warm-up and caused a couple of upsets on her way to the last eight.
An aggressive Zvonareva clipped through the first set in 29 minutes and was 3-0 up in the second when Kvitova finally got onto the front foot.
The 20-year-old, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year, ignored another distraction when an elderly spectator fainted and slugged her way back into the contest at 3-3.
Zvonareva, however, is determined to prove she can win a grand slam this year and ultimately went through a comfortable winner when Kvitova overcooked a forehand after 75 minutes.
"There will be moments where you lose your focus and you will have one or two unforced errors," said the 26-year-old, a tearful losing finalist at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows last year.
"She's a very good player. She took that opportunity, that little chance that I gave her. She used it and got back into the match.
"But I'm really happy the way I handled the situation after, and I was able to come up with some good shots when I needed it and finish in two sets."