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Clijsters crushes Mauresmo to reach Key Biscayne final

Former world number one Kim Clijsters crushed top seed Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 6-0 here on Thursday to reach the finals of the $6,5-million (about R40,3-million) WTA and ATP Masters Series tournament.

Clijsters, unseeded in the wake of a lengthy injury lay-off, needed just 62 minutes to end Mauresmo’s hopes of a first title at Key Biscayne.

She also ended the French player’s chance of regaining the world number one ranking from American Lindsay Davenport at this event.

Mauresmo would have needed to beat second-seeded Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the final to unseat Davenport.

Instead, 17-year-old Sharapova, who beat American Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals, can claim the world number two spot from Mauresmo if she beats Clijsters in Saturday’s final.

”In all areas of the game, she was better than me,” Mauresmo said of Clijsters, who ploughed through the ranks of seeded players to claim the title in Indian Wells, California, two weeks ago.

”I feel like she’s hitting the ball better than when she stopped,” added Mauresmo. ”She has huge confidence, so everything she goes for is in.”

Mauresmo had four break points against Clijsters in the opening set and failed to convert all of them. After that, she said, there was little she could do.

”I think today I did everything pretty well,” Clijsters said.

”The most important thing was that I made her do things that took her out of the comfort zone.”

Sharapova made sure that for the first time since 2000 — when Martina Hingis won — a Williams won’t lift the women’s trophy at Key Biscayne.

Venus Williams won the last of her three titles here in 2001, and Serena Williams launched her run of three straight in 2002.

Venus ended Serena’s run with a quarter-final win over her sister on Tuesday. But the eighth-seeded American never looked as if she would get past Sharapova.

Williams’s only break opportunities came in the final game of the match, but it proved too little too late as she failed to capitalise on any of her six chances to keep the contest going.

”It was the best game in the match,” Sharapova said. ”Being 0-40 down is not the best situation you can be at when you’re up 5-3 serving for it. I was very proud of myself for being able to win that game. It was a tough one.”

The match-ups for Friday’s men’s semifinals were completed as world number one Roger Federer, seeking a first Key Biscayne crown, lined up a clash with six-time Miami champion Andre Agassi.

Switzerland’s Federer dispatched sixth-seeded Briton Tim Henman

6-4, 6-2. Agassi, seeded ninth, downed fellow American Taylor Dent 7-5, 6-0.

Henman, one of the few players still boasting a winning record against Federer, couldn’t improve on that.

He said he didn’t play badly, but against Federer these days, that’s just not enough.

”It was okay, but I think you’re only allowed to play to a certain level because of the standard that he’s playing so consistently,”

Henman said ”I felt pretty comfortable, but it only takes your level to drop for a point or two points, and that can be a break of serve. He just keeps rolling from there.”

Federer improved his 2005 record to 30-1, the best start to a season since Ivan Lendl started 30-1 in 1986.

”I am surprised to have, again, such a great start to the season after last year’s season where I really thought, ‘How in the world will I defend all those titles, and how will I maintain this level?”’ said Federer, whose lone loss this year came to eventual champion Marat Safin in the semifinals at the Australian Open.

”Because people expect so much,” he said. ”You have to feel well almost on every day, you know, to come through, because everybody wants to beat you out there.”

Agassi (34) may not face such high expectations every time he turns out. But the eight-time Grand Slam champion’s history in 18 previous appearances in this event make him a formidable opponent for anyone in Miami.

Against Dent, Agassi broke to lead 5-4 in the first set, and then squandered two set points on his own serve as Dent levelled the set at 5-5.

But Agassi broke back and held to earn the set, then immediately gained the upper hand in the second set with a break in the opening game.

Dent, looking increasingly frustrated, had his ankle taped while trailing 4-0 but still couldn’t eke out a game as Agassi booked his semi-final berth in 70 minutes.

Friday’s other semifinal was an all-Spanish affair, with David Ferrer taking on exciting young compatriot Rafael Nadal. — Sapa-AFP

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