Henin, Clijsters set up Belgian blockbuster
MIAMI: Former world number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters set up Belgian blockbuster in the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open Wednesday, while Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick booked a men''s showdown.
Henin, playing her fourth tournament since returning from retirement, downed world number two Caroline Wozniacki 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.
Clijsters, in her first full season since coming out of retirement last year, beat ninth-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur 6-3, 7-5.
"It has always been special, and it will always be special," Henin said of her long rivalry with Clijsters. "Because Kim and I grew up together. We arrived on the tour almost at the same time, we played good at the same time, we retired at the same time, and we came back at the same time."
Clijsters, who married and had a baby in her absence from the women''s tour, returned with a bang by winning the US Open last September.
Clijsters triumphed in January when the two met in the final of the Brisbane International - Henin''s first tournament back.
"That was one of the funniest, most exciting matches I think that I''ve played in my career," said Clijsters, who saved two match points in that contest. "Hopefully we can both play the same kind of match level and intensity."
Nadal, the world number four who is the highest-seeded player left in the ATP Masters 1000 hardcourt draw, moved into the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over eight-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
Nadal saved all eight break points he faced and sealed the victory with a blistering cross-court winner.
Nadal, playing his second tournament since injury cut short his Australian Open campaign, will continue his quest for his first title since last April when he faces in-form American Roddick, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Nicolas Almagro.
"When you play a lot of matches and kind of play a high level, it feels like everything kind of slows down a little bit," sixth-seeded Roddick, the 2004 champion, said. "Muscle memory takes over a little bit more. I think I''m at that stage right now. Unfortunately with tennis, you have to start over every day."
The top three men''s seeds - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - were all eliminated before the quarter-finals.
"Obviously you''re surprised any time he loses," Roddick said of Federer, who lost to Czech Tomas Berdych on Tuesday. "But that''s tennis. That''s why you play."
Henin, currently ranked 33rd in the world and playing on wild card invitation, has already beaten four seeded players in a row. She''s 16-3 since ending a 20-month retirement in January, and she''ll move back into the top 30 in next week''s rankings.
After her slow start, Henin was dominant on serve in the final set and closed out the 2hr 45min match with a love game.
"I didn''t play for two years, so it''s good to be on the court a little bit longer," she said.
Henin, who had 31 unforced errors in the opening set, said Wozniacki''s variety kept her from finding a groove early.
"She''s really smart," Henin said. "She never hits two balls in the row with the same rhythm. She pushed me to play and work a lot."
Three-time champion Venus Williams will play 13th seed Marion Bartoli in the other women''s semi-final on Thursday.
Henin, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, has never won in Miami. Her best finish here was in 2007, when she lost to Serena Williams in the final.
She was playing for the first time against the 19-year-old Wozniacki, who recalled watching Henin play on television.
Wozniacki said she wasn''t surprised Henin''s comeback had gotten off to such a quick start.
"It''s really difficult to play matches again after you haven''t played for a while, but I think she just didn''t feel the pressure," Wozniacki said. "She just went out there and enjoyed it, and that''s why the results are coming."