For the most part, when Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin meet, the extraordinary performance by these players keeps spectators on the edge of their seats. In the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open last night that was again the case. Still, moments of brilliance by both athletes were overshadowed by too many lows. In an error plagued match, Clijsters outlasted Henin 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 to secure her place in the finals along side Venus Williams.
With a forehand error by Clijsters, Henin got a break point in the opening game of the match. However, as a result of superior serving, Clijsters held. After an initial love service game, her next time up, Henin let a 40-15 game get away due to a string of forehand errors. Thus, Clijsters obtained a break and promptly consolidated. As Henin served at 2-5, because of a volleying mistake, Clijsters arrived at double set point. With an overhead winner, Clijsters broke Henin and claimed the set.
Clijsters’ domination persisted through the early phase of the second set; she broke Henin to put herself ahead 3-0. Three games short of a straight sets victory, Clijsters’ play dove. Serving at 3-1, Clijsters netted a volley and committed a double fault wiping out her break advantage. Thanks to that invite, Henin equalized the set at 3 all. Later on, with a return winner, Henin obtained a break for 6-5. However, because of double faults and errors, Henin wasted a set point. With a forehand up the line winner, Clijsters squared the set. Nevertheless, Henin assumed control of the tiebreaker, prolonging the semifinal.
The last set, Henin produced a few sensational backhands to break at love for 2-0. But, the subsequent game, two double faults, including one at love-40, permitted Clijsters entrance back into the match. After readily holding, Clijsters broke Henin at love for the second straight time to capture her 4th successive game and a 4-2 lead. Despite the serve repeatedly let her down, Henin was tenacious. Henin’s swatted away another break point to stay one break behind at 3-4. Aided by Clijsters’ double fault and a forehand crosscourt winner, Henin arrived at triple break point. Because of a miscue by Clijsters, the set was leveled at 4. Still, Clijsters was equally stubborn. Her second opportunity, Clijsters broke for 5-4 with a backhand winner . Yet, serving for the match, Clijsters double faulted on double break point. Eventually, the set moved on to a tiebreaker.
In the breaker, Henin got an early mini-break. But, after misfiring on an overhead and dumping a backhand into the net, the score was 2 a piece. Later, with a forehand crosscourt winner and a Henin backhand error, Clijsters had a two mini-break lead at 6-3. Still, Henin saved three match points to get to 6 all. Finally, with a backhand volley winner, Clijsters had her fourth match point. Kim converted with a forehand up the line winner.
Henin was granted a wildcard at this event. Despite the loss, Justine will finally be ranked. On Monday, at a minimum, Henin will be in the top 20. From a ranking of 16, Clijsters will likewise climb, possibly into the top 10 depending on the results of the finals.
Although Williams won her semifinal in straight sets, there were also peaks and valleys to her play. Both Williams and Clijsters possess the talent to produce a phenomenal final. The hope is that the two ladies can perform to their lofty standard and give fans a match to remember.