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Clijsters, Hingis to meet in Oz Open quarters

Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters will meet in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second year running.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 13:46 IST

Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters will meet in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second year running.

Clijsters, who last year ended Hingis' first run at a major after three seasons in retirement, set up a rematch with a 6-1, 7-5 win Monday over No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova.

Hingis, who won three consecutive Australian titles and figured in six straight finals from 1997, weathered an early challenge from China's Li Na before pulling away for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory. "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. This year it is Clijsters with retirement on her mind. The 23-year-old Belgian has said this will be her last season. And she wants to improve on her one major title, the 2005 US Open. 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 in 1 hour, 19 minutes. It was her longest match of the tournament, having 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.

Later Monday, top-seeded Maria Sharapova was set to play Vera Zvonareva. The winner of that match will play Russia's Ana Chakvetadze, who beat No 8 Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-1.

First Published: Jan 22, 2007 13:46 IST