Clijsters, Zvonareva hitting top gear

Written by: Pti
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Melbourne, Jan 25 (AFP) Kim Clijsters warned she washitting top form ahead of her Australian Open quarter-final,while world number two Vera Zvonareva will hope to again proveher critics wrong.

The two remain on a collision course for the semi-finals-- a rematch of last year''s US Open title match -- asClijsters prepares to take on Agnieszka Radwanska andZvonareva faces Petra Kvitova in Wednesday''s quarters.

Clijsters and Zvonareva met in the US Open decider atFlushing Meadows in 2010, with the Belgian playing almostflawless tennis to destroy her Russian opponent 6-2, 6-1.

Former world number one Clijsters, 28, has reached thelast eight without dropping a set, after romping through herfirst two matches and then surviving two tighter encounters.

After opening her campaign with a stunning 6-0, 6-0 winover former world number one Dinara Safina, the Belgian thendemolished Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.

But her matches against Alize Cornet and EkaterinaMakarova have been much closer, with the third seed pushedhard in the early stages on both occasions and showing signsof frailty before recovering.

"I think my first match against Safina and tonight''smatch (against Makarova) were definitely a lot better, so Idefinitely felt a big improvement compared to my previousmatch," Clijsters said.

Radwanska, who halted China''s Peng Shuai in the round of16, is playing her first tournament since coming back from astress fracture in her foot. She said she had alreadysurpassed her goals.

"I think this is unbelievable, I really feel great," shesaid after beating Peng. "Not even till the last minute did Iknow I was going to play here.

"I was just very happy after the first match that I wasplaying a match without any pain. Even if I had lost the firstround, I would have been happy anyway that I didn''t miss theGrand Slam and I''m back on tour." More (AFP) AT

Zvonareva has been making her way through the draw almost unnoticed, despite her status as world number two, as shequietly creeps towards a third straight Grand Slam final.

But the 26-year-old Muscovite, who could finish thetournament as world number one if results go her way, saidpeople may be finally starting to show her some respect.

"If I perform well and I win matches, you know, I thinkpeople will respect me, but it''s not something I really thinkabout," she said.

"There are a lot of people that always underestimated meand there are a lot of people that never believed in me andthere are a lot of people that thought I never will make it toeven like Grand Slam semi-finals or something."

Zvonareva also reached the Wimbledon final in 2010 andsaid she had now built up a wealth of experience which wouldstand her in good stead in the days ahead.

"I learned a lot over the past two Grand Slams -- I thinkI tried to use it to my advantage," she said. "I tried toprepare myself for my matches the best I can."

She will need all her experience against Kvitova, thetall left-hander with a swinging serve and boominggroundstrokes, who won the Brisbane International at the startof the year and is on a nine-match winning streak.

Kvitova, 20, overcame a nervous start to overwhelmItalian Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 as she aims to match orbetter last year''s Wimbledon semi-final appearance.

Reigning champion Serena Williams is out with a footinjury, Venus Williams retired with a muscle strain and otherex-number ones Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic,Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina are already beaten. (AFP) AT

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