Sharapova, Clijsters advance to semis

Kim Clijsters had another quarterfinal win over Martina Hingis despite a rash of unforced errors, and moved into the Australian Open semifinals against top-seeded Maria Sharapova.

Fourth-seeded Clijsters won 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday, breaking Hingis’ serve in the last game and ending the match with a forehand passing shot.

”I wasn’t really seeing the ball, the only thing you can do is to work for every point to try to turn things around,” said Clijsters, who made 62 unforced errors and dropped serve five times.

”I knew it was going to be a tough one. It could have been my last match here, so I’m glad to have one more.”

Clijsters ended Hingis’ remarkable comeback run here in the quarterfinals last year, when the Swiss star was returning from three years off the circuit because of ankle and foot injuries.

Hingis had won three straight titles from 1997 to 1999 and then lost three consecutive finals before quitting the first time.

Clijsters has made the semifinals here on every trip since 2002 — missing the 2005 tournament because of injuries — but has never won the title. The 23-year-old Belgian plans to retire at the end of this season.

Sharapova advanced to the Australian semifinals for the third straight year with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Anna Chakvetadze, another 19-year-old Russian.

Sharapova, assured of gaining the number one ranking next month, had trouble on her serve, double-faulting on break point three times.

But she had the only point on serve in the tiebreaker, where the last eight points finished on unforced errors.

The United States Open champion was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 and wasted a match point with a backhand error in the next game.

Sharapova got two more match points in the 12th game and finished it off in two hours, 14 minutes when Chakvetadze netted a forehand.

”It was very difficult, I didn’t feel like we had a lot of easy rallies,” Sharapova said. ”I felt I had to work on every point.”

Sharapova was very inconsistent, smacking clean winners to take one game, then committing glaring mistakes to lose the next. She finished with 32 winners but six double faults and 41 unforced errors and won only three more points than her opponent.

Sharapova, who looks toward her father, Yuri, after almost every point, got a warning for getting coaching from him as she served at 0-30 with the score tied at 2-2 in the second set. She then ran off

four straight points to take the game.

”I was a little up and down, a bit scratchy,” Sharapova said. ”I am glad I got through, but next time will even be tougher.”

Sharapova is into the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the third straight year and is among the last four at a major for the eighth time. She is the defending US Open champion and also won Wimbledon in 2004.

Chakvetadze, who had won 20 of her previous 21 matches, had never been beyond the fourth round of a major.

In men’s quarterfinals later on Wednesday, second-seeded Rafael Nadal faced number 10 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and Tommy Haas was against number three Nikolay Davydenko. – Sapa-AP

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