Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Clijsters' health could hurt her
By Pam Shriver Special to ESPN.com
MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's not often when you know you're watching tennis history. You will with Fabiola Zuluaga, who is the first person from Colombia to play in the semifinals of a major.
Unfortuantely for her, she's the No. 32 seed playing the No. 1 seed, Justine Henin-Hardenne. So, the contest, on paper, should not be that intriguing. Henin-Hardenne is just a better player in all areas. Zuluaga hasn't beaten anyone in the top 50 to get here.
Henin-Hardenne got through a tough match on the way to the final by beating Lindsay Davenport. She has the killer instinct and determination that we haven't seen in a No. 1 since Steffi Graf.
No. 2 Kim Clijsters plays No. 22 Patty Schnyder in the more competitive of the semifinals.
It's a possible upset, depending on how Clijsters' injured foot is on Thursday. The Aussie Open has a unique schedule in the second week. There's always one half of the draw that does not get a day off in between the quarters and the semifinals. Because of her injury, Clijsters requested a day off at the start of the tournament to help her ankle heal. That request could come back to haunt her here.
Schnyder played stubborn tennis in the quarterfinals against Lisa Raymond, who ran out of good tennis following her upset of Venus Williams. Schnyder moves well, hits lots of spins and has a difficult serve to attack.
Schnyder has a really good left-handed kick second serve. It might be as good or better than Martina Navratilova's when she was in her prime. The biggest difference is that Schnyder doesn't serve and volley, so you don't have the pressure that Navratilova put on her opponents. Schnyder's serve jumps up high. I can't think of another tennis player now, who has a big, lefty kick serve. That's a big advantage when you go out there with a shot that isn't seen elsewhere in women's tennis.
For Clijsters, the lefty matchup means that more shots will naturally go to Clijsters backhand, which is good for her. Schnyder will want to test Clijsters' forehand because that's the shot that she can grow shaky on.
If Clijsters is mobile, and isn't worried about the injury, she should win.
It should be another all-Belgian final, and Henin-Hardenne has to like her chances to win this tournament. We haven't seen the best yet of any of the women in the tournament. As far as a sustained high-level of play, it's been disappointing and not just because three or four of the top players haven't been here. It's just been a below-par performance.
ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.