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Top four seeds reach Wimbledon semis

The Wimbledon seeding committee got this one just right.

The top four seeded players have advanced to the women’s semifinals at Wimbledon: number one: Amelie Mauresmo, number two: Kim Clijsters, number three: Justine Henin-Hardenne and number four Maria Sharapova.

It’s only the fifth time in 25 years that the semis have featured the elite four.

On Thursday, 2004 champion Sharapova will play Mauresmo, and Clijsters will face Henin-Hardenne in the 20th career match between the Belgian rivals.

”It just shows how long our careers have been already and how consistent we both have been,” Clijsters said.

Clijsters leads Henin-Hardenne 10-9, not counting Henin-Hardenne’s two victories in lower-tier events in 1998 and 1999. Henin-Hardenne has won three of the last four, including at the French Open and Eastbourne grass-court tournament last month.

This will be their first meeting at Wimbledon. Henin-Hardenne leads 4-2 at other Grand Slams.

”It will be the third time in a month, so I think that we know each other well enough,” Henin-Hardenne said. ”But never here in Wimbledon. I don’t know what to expect about that. I’m just going to try to keep the same preparation, nothing different from what I did in the last few weeks. The best will win.”

Neither player has lost a set in five matches at this tournament. Clijsters beat China’s Li Na 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, while Henin-Hardenne downed French qualifier Severine Bremond 6-4, 6-4.

”Now I really don’t care who’s standing in front of me,” Clijsters said. ”Doesn’t matter if I’m playing Venus [Williams] or Justine or Lindsay [Davenport]. Of course I know how Justine plays but she’s a really good player. It’s a challenge that I look forward to.”

The men’s quarterfinals were set for Wednesday, featuring the match-up between three-time defending champion Roger Federer and Croatia’s Mario Ancic, the last man to beat him on grass. That was 45 matches ago in the first round of 2002 Wimbledon.

Also up: 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt vs Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, French Open champ Rafael Nadal vs Jarkko Nieminen, and number 14 Radek Stepanek vs Jonas Bjorkman.

The Belgians — Henin-Hardenne from the French-speaking Walloon region, Clijsters from Dutch-speaking Flanders — have had a sometimes icy relationship but insist they get along.

”There’s a lot of respect between each other,” Henin-Hardenne said.

”My feeling toward her has never changed,” Clijsters said.

”It has always been the same. I’ve always been nice to her.”

Henin-Hardenne reached her first Grand Slam final here in 2001, losing to Venus Williams. Since then she has won the French Open three times and the US Open and Australian Open once each. If she wins Wimbledon, she’ll complete a career Grand Slam of all four major titles.

Only nine women have accomplished the feat, including Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

”As a kid I wasn’t dreaming about Wimbledon, I was dreaming of the French Open,” Henin-Hardenne said. ”Now things are probably different because it’s a great challenge for me, Wimbledon. It starts to be something very important for me. For sure I would sign for one Wimbledon in my career.”

Henin-Hardenne has lost only 21 games in five matches and looks comfortable on the grass, which is bouncing higher than ever and giving baseliners more time to set up their shots.

”You have to be patient,” Clijsters said. ”But you can’t just hit it back into the court because that’s when [Henin-Hardenne] steps it up and she really tries to go for her shots as well. You have to play aggressive tennis, try to take your chances. That’s what you try to do against every player. But against Justine, you have to expect every ball to come back.”

Sharapova is the only former women’s champion left after the exits of Venus Williams and Martina Hingis.

Sharapova beat Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-4 in a match briefly interrupted by a male streaker in the second set. Mauresmo beat Anastasia Myskina 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Mauresmo has a 2-0 edge against Sharapova, both straight-sets wins on hard courts.

Mauresmo, who turns 27 on Wednesday, lost in the semifinals at her three previous Wimbledons.

”I don’t think I have anything to prove to myself, first of all, or to anybody,” Mauresmo said. ”I just want more.” ‒ Sapa-AP

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