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Clijsters and Mauresmo face another US Open duel

If world number one Kim Clijsters is going to reach her first US Open semi-final, she is going to have to overcome the woman who ousted her here last year -- France's Amelie Mauresmo.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2003 11:29 IST

If world number one Kim Clijsters is going to reach her first US Open semi-final, she is going to have to overcome the woman who ousted her here last year -- France's Amelie Mauresmo.

Belgium's Clijsters defeated 21st-ranked American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-2, 6-4 while fifth seed Mauresmo ousted Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-2, 6-2 to book a quarter-final showdown at the year's final Grand Slam event.

Mauresmo beat Clijsters 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in last year's US Open fourth round and has split four matches with Clijsters, not counting a Mauresmo injury retirement in 2001.

"I feel better this year than I did last year," Clijsters said. "But I really feel against Amelie everything has to be at your best. She can be real aggressive and with the slice and spin ball. She can really make it hard for you and make you adjust all the time.

"I can't worry if I'm not playing well. I have to stay mentally strong and stay motivated out there."

The 20-year-old girlfriend of Australian former men's number one Lleyton Hewitt made her best US Open run getting to the 2001 quarter-finals and she has reached the semis in 14 of 15 2003 events entering the Mauresmo match.

"We've played each other a lot already. We know each other's game pretty well," Mauresmo said. "She has some weapons to disturb me and I have a few to disturb her also."

Clijsters has 71 triumphs in 2003, the most by a woman at this stage of the season since Chris Evert in 1974. She was won a tour-best six titles this year. But to stop being the only women's number one without a Slam title, Mauresmo must go.

"We have had some unbelievable matches," Clijsters said. "It's going to be a tough one. She serves well. She doesn't make many unforced errors. I'm going to have to play my game very well if I want to have a chance to beat her."

Third seed Lindsay Davenport defeated Russia's 19th-ranked Nadia Petrova 6-0, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 to reach her seventh US Open quarter-final in a row and will face a foe who has never beaten her, Argentina's 25th-ranked Paola Suarez.

"It's a great opportunity for me to get into the semi-finals," Davenport said. "I have to be eager and on my toes."

But that's a problem. Davenport was limping by the finish of the Petrova match, favoring the two nerve-damaged toes on her left foot that forced her to pull out of a WTA final a week ago.

"Toward the end, my foot was starting to get a little sore, not major, but I just wanted to get off the court," Davenport said. "I still got through a pretty long match. I still feel pretty good and I was able to get through it."

Monday finds second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne, who beat Clijsters in the French Open final, playing Russian teen Dinara Safina and American sixth seed Jennifer Capriati facing Russia's Elena Dementieva for quarter-final berths.

Then Clijsters' revenge bid takes center stage.

"It's going to be a big match, hopefully a good match where I can find a nice rhythm," Mauresmo said. "You have to move well, be ready and be aggressive yourself and not let her do what she likes to do, which is dictating the game. That's why she's got to the top spot."

Clijsters points to match toughness this year as a major reason why she is better prepared for the test offered by Mauresmo, who seeks her first Slam final since her 1999 Australian Open breakthrough.

"I wasn't playing my best tennis at all last year," she said. "I feel like I definitely have the match rhythm. I feel very comfortable."

Davenport cannot say the same. She took a cortizone injection to numb her pain last week and plans to have surgery after the Open, but hopes to make a stand, lierally and figuratively.

"I want more than anything to finish the tournament, so I'm going to be taking all the anti-inflammatories, doing everything I can to make my body feel as good as it can," Davenport said.

Petrova, a French Open semi-finalist, made 50 unforced errors to 33 for Davenport, spraying shots at the finish as Davenport took a conservative mode.

"Slowly through the middle of the second to the end I stopped being in control of the points and started making some careless errors," Davenport said. "It turned into a much tougher battle.

"I just wanted to get my shots in because she was coming up with a lot of errors. I thought I would just let her throw in the errors and she did."

Davenport is the only past US Open champion still in the field by virtue of her 1998 title here.

Suarez eliminated Russia's 36th-ranked Elena Likhovtseva 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in a match of 27-year-olds each trying to match their best Slam showing. Suarez lost her first four meetings with Likhovtseva but won her second in a row.

First Published: Sep 01, 2003 11:29 IST