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Just like old times: Henin faces Clijsters in Brisbane

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:52

They’ve had to wait three and a half years for showdown No.23, but in her first tournament back on the WTA Tour Justine Henin has set up a showdown with Kim Clijsters at the Brisbane International.

The Belgian compatriots, both former world No.1s and both having made a return from early retirement – Clijsters having gone on to win last year’s US Open just weeks after returning to action – each breezed through their semi-finals, with Henin in particular impressing against Ana Ivanovic.

“I don’t think anyone around the world expected to see this again” – Clijsters

Playing her fourth match in fives days and returning less than 24 hours after a lengthy quarter-final against Melinda Czink, Henin showed no ill effects whatsoever as she crushed fellow former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-2 in just over an hour.

“It’s a perfect situation for me as I’m in the final of my first tournament, it’s a great feeling,” she said after her win.

On the prospect of facing Clijsters once more, Henin was quick to put rumours of bad blood between the pair to rest. “There is so much respect between the two of us so, I know sometimes people would love to hear there have been problems between us but that’s not the case.

The duo have met 22 times before, with with Henin 12-10 ahead in their head-to-head.

“We are so different but we have good memories. When we were younger we were travelling a lot together,” she added. “But after that we grew up differently and went in different directions.”

Clijsters seems as surprised as anyone at how quickly she and Henin have returned to the sharp end of the competitive scene, admitting “I don’t think anyone around the world expected to see this again.”

The 26-year-old was equally dismissive of her semi-final opponent Andrea Petkovic, but only after breaking the 21-year-old German’s resistance with a six-game unanswered run from 4-4 in the first set.

“I look forward to it,” she said of Saturday’s showdown with Henin. “Back to the old days. We grew up playing under-12s and sharing rooms together and we have history together.”

Meanwhile in Auckland, Yanina Wickmayer is already playing down her chances of ensuring a double Belgian triumph with victory in the final of the ASB Classic.

The 20-year-old world No.16, who needed a wildcard to play in the event after missing the entry deadline while contesting a doping ban, beat Shahar Peer 6-4 7-5 to reach the final, where she will face top seed Flavia Pennetta.

“She’s been playing well here and has beaten everyone quite easily,” said Wickmayer. “She is older than me and she has a lot more experience than me.

“This is a final, and she has played more finals than me. It is always different playing in a final, and I think the more experienced players are always a little bit ahead when they are playing finals.”

Italian world No.12 Pennetta thrashed compatriot Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-0 in just under an hour.

“I was very nervous in the beginning because we know each other so well and it is not easy to play one of your best friends,” said Pennetta. “She also was very nervous and didn’t play so well.

“I am very happy. In the end, I was playing better and better and made no mistakes.”

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