Clijsters to battle Pierce in final

Kim Clijsters persevered through five failed match-point chances to come good on her sixth for a 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 semifinal upset of top seed Maria Sharapova on Friday at the $17,75-million United States Open.

The Belgian fourth seed, who won three of four hard-court tournaments this summer on the hard courts, will play on Saturday night against French 12th seed Mary Pierce, who won a controversial contest over sixth seed Elena Dementieva 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

The defeats of Sharapova and two-time 2004 grand-slam finalist Dementieva ensures there will be no repeat of last year’s all-Russian final, won by Svetlana Kuznetsova over Dementieva.

Clijsters said that after failing to close out a straight-sets win against Sharapova by missing on five match points in the second-set tiebreaker, she had to steel her nerves.

“It was tough,” said Clijsters, loser in four previous grand-slam finals. “I gave everything I had on those match points and she just came up with better shots.”

One of Sharapova’s stunners was a drop-shot winner that drew Clijsters in from far beyond the base line.

“I said from the third set on, ‘Just go for it.’ It worked,” said Clijsters, who stands 2-0 against Pierce.

Sharapova said that after her late heroics in the second set, she was unable to keep it up in the final set.

“I gave it all I had in the tiebreaker.
Then the third, I ran out of gas, basically. I fought really well in the second and just kind of went downhill from there.”

Clijsters lifted the first set with ease, helped by two winners and 17 unforced errors by Sharapova, who jumped to number one in the world rankings last month.

With Sharapova taking the second set, it came down to Clijsters in the third. The Belgian got up two breaks, lost one and eventually closed out victory on her sixth match point.

In the other semifinal, drama queen Pierce milked the rules to become the first French player into a women’s final here. The 30-year-old took a regulation-stretching 12-minute injury timeout after losing the first set against Dementieva.

Pierce glossed over her controversial marathon timeout, saying she drew inspiration from a sick friend who “gave me the power to play”. She will play the final in her 13th US Open.

“I’m happy to be here, I don’t care whom I play in the final, I’ll give 100% and fight to the end,” she said.

The Canadian-born Frenchwoman owns titles from the 1995 Australian and 2000 French Opens. Dementieva had won both of their previous matches.

“Kim’s done unbelievable this summer, winning so many tournaments,” said Pierce, who lost the French Open final in June to Justine Henin-Hardenne. “She’s an unbelievable competitor. She’s really quick on the court. She’s just a great player all around, she’ll definitely be tough to beat.”—Sapa-DPA

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