Clijsters powers into Brisbane semis
Kim Clijsters fired a warning to her rivals as she cruised into the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with a dominant victory over Iveta Benesova.
The former world No. 1 is playing in her first tournament since August, and ahead of the defence of her Australian Open crown, the Belgian looks to be hitting top form just in time.
Clijsters was restricted to just eight tournaments last year after she suffered a series of injury setbacks, but the four-time grand slam champion showed no fitness concerns as she overpowered her rival 6-3 6-2.
Benesova came into the contest high on confidence, having knocked out top seed and US Open champion Sam Stosur in her home event on Wednesday, but the Czech lefthander had no answer to Clijsters, who burst out of the blocks, racing to a 5-0 lead in the opening set.
Benesova rallied to avoid the bagel in a high-quality encounter, but Clijsters pulled away in the second set to streak to victory and set up a semi-final clash with Daniela Hantuchova, who profited from Serena Williams' withdrawal from the tournament with an ankle injury.
On the other side of the draw, third seed Francesca Schiavone came from a set down to overcome Jelena Jankovic as the pair battled it out for just under three hours. Schiavone ultimately prevailed 5-7 7-6(2) 6-3 as the Italian clawed her way into the semi-finals.
Schiavone will take on Kaia Kanepi for a place in the final after the Estonian produced a fine display to see off second seed Andrea Petkovic. After being comprehensively outplayed in the opening set, Petkovic rallied in the second, but was unable to force the match to a decider, falling 6-1 7-6(7).
Elsewhere, at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, top seed Sabine Lisicki was forced to retire with an abdominal injury. The world No. 15 was down 6-4 4-3 against compatriot Angelique Kerber before walking off the court, leaving her Australian Open chances in doubt.
Fourth seed Flavia Pennetta made light work of her quarter-final, defeating Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-1. Pennetta broke the Russian's serve six times en route to a 68-minute victory. Jie Zheng proved too strong for Lucie Hradecka, losing just 10 points on serve as she won 6-2 6-3.