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Aus Open: Hurt Clijsters retires, Mauresmo in final

Mauresmo will meet Justine Henin-Hardenne in Saturday's final after the eighth seed knocked out Maria Sharapova.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2006 14:04 IST

Relieved French third seed Amelie Mauresmo strode into the Australian Open final after newly-crowned world number one Kim Clijsters retired hurt in the third set on Thursday.

Mauresmo will meet 2004 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in Saturday's final after the eighth seed knocked out Russian fourth seed Maria Sharapova.

Clijsters was forced to concede after twisting her right ankle on Melbourne Park's Rebound Ace surface with the scores at 5-7, 6-2, 3-2 in Mauresmo's favour.

Clijsters, who only regained the top spot on Wednesday after defeating Martina Hingis, tried unsuccessfully to continue with her ankle heavily strapped.

Mauresmo, 26, a losing finalist in here in 1999, has been in ominous form since winning the season-ending WTA Tour Championship late last year and had clawed back from a set down to gain momentum before the semi was halted.

"It's an unfinished match, so I just hope she's going to get better and it's not too bad ... that's the way it is," she said, adding that she could not remember playing in the 1999 final as so many things had changed since then.

"I've been waiting for this for so long ... like everyone else I grew up, I got more mature and I know a little bit more what I have learned now.

"Seven years ago I was only 19, so I'm getting old now and it's good to get into the final again."

With the roof of the Rod Laver Arean closed under the tournament's extreme heat rule as outside temperatures touched 39 degrees Celsius (102 Farenheit), Mauresmo looked fitter and more mobile in the early exchanges.

She began aggressively, taking Clijsters to break point in the third game of the first set but unforced errors, including a backhand shank into the stands, meant she was unable to convert her chances.

Clijsters, her left thigh again heavily strapped and padded, stepped up her own intensity to hit back and break her opponent when Mauresmo fired a backhand into the net.

Where previously Mauresmo may have wilted when chances did not go her way, she made her own luck by immediately breaking back.

The pressure began to tell on Clijsters, who chastised herself with a cry of "stupid" when an error allowed Mauresmo to defend her serve at 4-4 then bit the edge of her racquet after overhitting a point at 5-5.

Clijsters finally found an edge when she broke Mauresmo to take the first set in 61 minutes after the Frenchwoman had saved three set points.

Mauresmo continued to cover the court well and took two service games from an increasingly frustrated Clijsters to shoot to a 5-1 lead.

The Belgian clawed back a service break but it was not enough to stop Mauresmo serving out the set.

The momentum began to go the way of the world number three when she broke Clijsters in the first game of the next set, sending down a backhand winner that her exhausted opponent did not chase.

But the nerves that have marred the Frenchwoman's career surfaced again when unforced errors allowed Clijsters to break back in the fourth game.

Clijsters then twisted her ankle with the score 3-2 in Mauresmo's favour.

First Published: Jan 26, 2006 14:04 IST