x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Clijsters relishes renewing rivalry with fellow Belgian Henin

The thrilling prospect of Belgium's two most successful tennis players renewing what has been a fascinating personal rivalry began to take shape.

The thrilling prospect of Belgium's two most successful tennis players renewing what has been a fascinating personal rivalry began to take shape last night as Kim Clijsters displayed the same kind of impressive form as her compatriot Justine Henin had a day earlier in the Brisbane International tournament. The two women, who both claimed the coveted world No 1 ranking before entering what proved to be temporary retirement, are on course to meet in Saturday's final of what has become a significant warm-up event for the Australian Open.

Clijsters, who launched her comeback in spectacular fashion last summer, winning her second US Open title a month after returning to the WTA tour, sent out an ominous warning to other aspiring grand slam champions as she thrashed local favourite Alicia Molik 6-0, 6-3 in exactly an hour. She is relishing the growing possibility of taking on Henin for the 23rd time and the first time since their Wimbledon semi-final of 2006 when Henin extended her lead over her compatriot to 12-10.

"I watched a little bit of her match [against second-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova] on TV - very impressive I thought," she said. A highly satisfied Clijsters admitted she was already thinking about Henin. "Those are the matches that you want to do it for," Clijsters said. "This is why we love to play tennis, for those big matches. Australia, top seeds for the Hopman Cup, kept alive their hopes of reaching the final of the annual team competition and in the process eliminated the threat of the United States. Samantha Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt both turned in commanding singles displays against Melanie Oudin and John Isner to render the mixed doubles rubber irrelevant.

The hosts must now beat Spain in Perth tomorrow to reach the final and Hewitt said: "I thought I played really well today." wjohnson@thenational.ae