MASON, Ohio (AP) - Kim Clijsters is turning Cincinnati into her
kind of town.
The defending U.S. Open champion reached the semifinals at the
Cincinnati Open on Friday, beating Italy's Flavia Pennetta 7-6 (6),
6-4 in oppressive afternoon heat. The fourth-seeded Clijsters will
face Serbia's Ana Ivanovic.
No. 10 Maria Sharapova also reached the semifinals, beating
France's Marion Bartoli 6-1, 6-4 in the evening match. She'll play
fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Clijsters is the highest remaining seed. Five of the top eight
were eliminated on Thursday. Serena and Venus Williams dropped out
with injuries before the tournament began.
That left center court to Clijsters, who seems to like the
Clijsters returned to tennis in Cincinnati last year, reaching
the quarterfinals after a two-year break to start a family and get
recharged. The 27-year-old Belgian reached the quarterfinals in
Cincinnati and found her touch. A few weeks later, she won the U.S.
This year, she took a break from tournament play after Wimbledon
and arrived in town hoping to use Cincinnati as a springboard
So far, the hard courts have been agreeable.
"There's moments when it's good, moments when it's not good,"
she said. "Each match has gone better. That's what I'm looking
Clijsters passed her toughest test of the week, making a few
more shots than Pennetta in a match close throughout. She hit a
service winner to go up 7-6 in the tiebreaker, and Pennetta sailed
a forehand wide to settle the sweaty first set.
Clijsters went to her seat and squirted cold water over her
hair, trying to get a little relief. On-court temperatures have
registered 120 degrees the past couple of days, with oppressive
humidity that made it tough to breathe after long points.
The heat had a lot to do with setting up her semifinal opponent.
Down 5-1 in the opening set of her quarterfinal match against
Yanina Wickmayer, Pavlyuchenkova started to think about doing
better in the second set. Turned out the first one was far from
Taking advantage of a heat-drained opponent, the 19-year-old
Russian rallied for a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 win that extended one of the
best stretches of her career.
"It was really tough conditions today," Pavlyuchenkova said.
Her opponent used so much energy getting ahead 5-1 in the first
set that she began feeling the strain. Her legs got a little shaky.
Her game fell apart.
"I started off really well in the first set, got really tired
after that," Wickmayer said. "And she came back and put up a
Pavlyuchenkova is coming off a title at Istanbul. Asked if she
has the energy to extend her streak of nine straight wins, she
said, "I don't know. We'll see tomorrow."
Sharapova will be rested. Bartoli had only seven points and
eight unforced errors while falling behind 5-0 in the first set.
"I was playing at a very high level the whole match,"