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Comeback queens meet in final

Clijsters and Pierce will vie to cap phenomenal comeback seasons with Grand Slam glory at the US Open final.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 18:58 IST

Kim Clijsters and Mary Pierce will vie to cap phenomenal comeback seasons with Grand Slam glory when they face off in the US Open final on Saturday night.

Clijsters, the fourth seed from Belgium, has won six WTA Tour titlesin 2005, incuding three of her four starts in the US hardcourt build-up to the Open.

But as recently as February, she was ranked a lowly 134th in the world as she missed the better part of 12 months in the aftermath of surgery on her left wrist.

She started her astonishingly rapid return to the top with back-to-back wins at Indian Wells and Miami in March and April, and has won three of four hardcourt starts in the two months prior to the Open.

Pierce, who has had plenty of ups and downs in a 17-year career on the WTA Tour, battled shoulder and back injuries in the years following her 2000 French Open triumph, and was ranked 295th in the world in April of 2002.

But newfound tranquility in her personal life has proved the foundation for a professional resurgence that has seen her reach the French Open final and the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year, as well as capturing the prestigious tier one hardcourt title in San Diego in early August.

With her semi-final win over Elena Dementieva, Pierce has now won 22 of her last 24 matches, and looks a real contender to continue her pattern of nabbing a Grand Slam every five years.

The first was the Australian Open in 1995, then came Roland Garros in 2000.

"Oh my gosh, that would just be unbelievable," she said. "That would be amazing."

But Pierce was under no illusion as to challenge presented by Clijsters.

"She's an unbelievable competitor. She's really quick on the court," Pierce said. "She's definitely going to be tough to beat."

Pierce shrugged off concerns that injuries might slow her, after she received treatment for a tight back and had her sore right thigh taped during her semi-final win.

"I'm just going to get good treatment, have a good rest and get prepared," she said.

Clijsters said she was expecting to meet a full-strength Pierce.

"I definitely have to go out there and go for my shots and play my game and be aggressive," she said of her strategy to claim her first Grand Slam title after four runner-up finishes in major championships.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 18:58 IST