Venus and Clijsters set to renew old rivalry

Thu Sep 9, 2010 5:47pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rivalry spanning almost a decade will be rekindled on Friday when Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters square off for a place in the U.S. Open final.

Both players have won the title twice but the stakes could hardly be higher when they meet in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows. The winner will play either Caroline Wozniacki or Vera Zvonareva, who meet in the other semi, in Saturday's final in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams, who won the championship in 2000 and 2001, has not made the final in New York since 2002, when the American lost to her younger sister Serena, while Clijsters is trying to defend the title she won last year.

With Serena missing through injury this year, Venus has opted out of the doubles to focus on singles and her form so far has been illuminating, advancing to the last four without dropping a single set.

"I've always played pretty well here," said Venus. "I feel really comfortable here, and it's great to come back to a place where I have won and a place where I've played well. So all in all, I feel positive."

Clijsters also has a great record at Flushing Meadows, winning her last 19 matches in New York. She won the title for the first time in 2005 but was injured then took a break to start a family.

The Belgian completed a fairytale return to New York when she won last season, celebrating her victory on court with her infant daughter, and says her unexpected success last year has provided her with the confidence she can do it again.

"It's something that you have to experience, obviously," she said. "I guess it's maybe like having a baby. You can't explain it to somebody who has never had a baby what it's like to give birth, because it's a feeling that you can't describe unless it's happened to you."   Continued...

<p>Venus Williams of the U.S. hits a return to Francesca Schiavone of Italy during the US Open tennis tournament in New York September 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>