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Tennis-Belgium to meet U.S. in Fed Cup last four

Written by: Staff

LIEGE, Belgium, Apr 23 (Reuters) Belgium will meet the United States in the Fed Cup semi-finals following victories by Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne over last year's champions Russia today.

French Open champion Henin-Hardenne booked Belgium's berth with a 6-2 6-0 win against Elena Dementieva while Clijsters, the U.S. Open champion, crushed Maria Kirilenko 6-1 6-4.

Russia had been aiming to win the Fed Cup for the third year in succession. Belgium beat them in the 2001 final.

Henin-Hardenne's second win, after her three-set victory over Nadia Petrova on Saturday, gave Belgium an unbeatable 3-1 lead and a home semi-final tie in July.

Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne then delighted the home crowd by taking to the court for the inconsequential doubles match, though they lost 7-6 7-5 to Dinara Safina and Kirilenko to take the final score to 3-2.

This was Henin-Hardenne's first Fed Cup match in three years and Belgium are hoping that the world number four is back to stay.

Clijsters said her team mate's return ''was the difference''.

Henin-Hardenne, however, declined to make a firm commitment for the July 15-16 semi-final, which takes place a week after Wimbledon.

''We'll have to look at the calendar. It's always very hard to predict what's going to happen; let's go step by step,'' Henin-Hardenne said.

The teams ended yesterday at 1-1 and the home side took the lead today when Clijsters beat Kirilenko.

Clijsters got over her shock defeat to Dementieva yesterday by racing through today's first set in less than 20 minutes. She proved too strong for Kirilenko, ranked 20 places below her, and took the second set in similar style.

''I am very happy the way I turned things around from yesterday and I felt a lot better today,'' Clijsters said.

''I was hitting the ball a lot more cleanly and got behind the ball which is what my game is all about. (I am) just looking forward to celebrating now.'' Kirilenko was a late call-up to replace Petrova whose epic battle with Henin-Hardenne, which she lost 7-6 4-6 3-6, took its toll.

Reuters OM DB0052

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