Kim Clijsters looked headed for an easy victory against fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the Sony Ericsson Open semi-finals Thursday night at the Sony Ericsson Open. Clijsters won nine of the first 11 games to lead 6-2, 3-0 with a break point to go up 4-0. That is where things turned. Henin roared back to win the second set and the match went the distance with Clijsters needing four match points in a dramatic third-set tie-break to win 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) and advance to the final, where she will meet three-time Sony Ericsson Open champion Venus Williams.
The first two sets were not the highest of quality and accounted for the bulk of Clijsters’ match total of 63 unforced errors (including 10 double faults) and Henin’s 44 unforced errors (and eight double faults).
But then came a spectacular third set that more then atoned for the first two, as both players produced lengthy, powerful baseline exchanges and sharp-angle battles and overall high quality tennis.
There were six service breaks leading up to the third-set tie-break. Serving at 5-6 and deuce, Clijsters found herself two points from defeat but she refused to back away from her aggressive game plan and forced the tiebreaker.
On her fourth match point, again after a long rally, Clijsters pivoted backwards and nailed a crisp down-the-line forehand for a winner and the match and a trip to the finals was hers.
Clijsters opponent in the finals is Venus Williams who advanced into the finals by beating Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-4. It was her 15th consecutive win. Williams is riding her longest winning streak since 2004, and she’s a finalist for the first time in nine years at the tournament she considers her hometown event. She won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001.
On the men’s side, number 16-seeded Tomas Berdych and number five-seeded Robin Soderling advanced to the semis and will meet Friday night.
Berdych stayed hot and followed up his upset of Roger Federer on Tuesday by beating Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a hard fought match. Soderling broke serve six times and knocked out Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.
In Friday's other semifinal, it will be a much anticipated showdown between Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal.