Clijsters thirsting for revenge over Henin
PARIS, June 7 (Reuters) Liberated from her grand slam angst, Kim Clijsters is looking for sweet revenge against defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open semi-finals tomorrow, her 23rd birthday.
Clijsters has twice been a losing finalist at Roland Garros and the memories of her 6-0 6-4 thrashing in 2003 by Henin-Hardenne are still fresh.
Her fellow Belgian also beat her in the 2003 U S Open final and in the 2004 Australian Open title decider, before Clijsters broke through to win the U S Open last year.
Despite acknowledging that Henin-Hardenne is the tour's best claycourter, Clijsters believes she is in the form to beat her compatriot at a grand slam for the first time since 2002.
''To me, Justine is the best clay court player that we have at the moment. She runs so many balls down, I think she's the best mover,'' the second seed said yesterday.
''I know I have to play aggressive tennis. I'll have to really go for the lines, I'll have to make sure I serve well.
''Your game just has to be there, everything has to be there, if you want to beat her.'' Fifth seed Henin-Hardenne, who has yet to be really tested, believes the match is evenly poised.
''I think it will be 50-50. If she says that clay isn't her favorite surface, she was here in the final twice. She's in the semifinals this year,'' she said.
''She's won tournaments on clay. I don't really believe this.
''We all try to put pressure on to the other player. We'll both be under pressure. It will be the one of us who deals better with this who will have a better chance of winning.'' Both players are on course to become the sixth in the professional era to win Roland Garros without dropping a set, and the first since Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1994.
GRAF'S EXAMPLE In the top part of the draw, Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova, who knocked out world number one Amelie Mauresmo and Wimbledon champion Venus Williams en route to the semi-final, will face hard-hitting Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
The Russian eighth seed, winner of the U S Open in 2004, is upbeat about her chances of seeing off the 17-year-old protegee of Nick Bollettieri.
''Yes, she's doing great. But I think I'm more of a clay court player. I'm just going to do my best.
''If she can beat me, she should play well. There is no pressure out there. I have my pressure all behind already.'' Vaidisova has stormed back from one set down in her two previous matches to claim impressive victories, and she sees six times French Open champion Steffi Graf as her role model.
''She was my inspiration. I don't think there's going to be anybody beating her records, anything she does. I definitely admire her on court and off court,'' she said.
''I played Svetlana once before in Wimbledon, it was a tough match. I think I have a good chance, I've been playing very well lately.'' Kuznetsova won that Wimbledon match in three sets.
The 16th seed can become the second youngest player to win the French Open if she lifts the trophy.
REUTERS DH BST1908