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Since 1st March, 1999
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Belgian belles on doorstep of historic toll

Paris: Everybody expected another all-Williams final at the French Open this year and although that is not now possible, a first all-Belgian final is now on the cards.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne both reached the semi-finals on Tuesday and are a match away from a first clash between Belgians in a Grand Slam final.

That is, of course, if Serena Wiliams allows it to happen.

Clijsters, who lost the Roland Garros final to Jennifer Capriati in 2001, dismissed former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez 6-2, 6-1 in her quarter finals match.

The 19-year-old now seems ideally placed to equal her best result in Paris as she meets unseeded Russian Nadia Petrova in the last four.

Henin-Hardenne seems to face a mission impossible against the winner of the last four Grand Slam tournaments in the other semi-final.

The Belgian fourth seed did beat Serena on clay in Charleston earlier this year, but that might be of less relevance than the 20-year-old hopes.

France’s Amelie Mauresmo had also beaten the American once this season, in Rome, but was humbled just two weeks later in Tuesday’s 6-1, 6-2 defeat on the Philippe Chatrier court.

“I beat her the last time so she will have great motivation to take her revenge,” Henin-Hardenne said of the top seed and world number one. “I’m the challenger but I really hope to make it to my first French Open final.”

Henin-Hardenne, who has only played in one Grand Slam final at Wimbledon two years ago where she lost to the older Williams sister Venus, thinks she has the shots to disturb Serena.

“Serena obviously will say she did not play well when I beat her in Charleston, but I did not play too well either,” she said.

“We can talk a lot about this semi-final, but the answer will be on court.”

Clijsters, who pushed Serena to three sets in the Australian Open semi-finals, also admitted the American was indisputably the woman to beat.

“She’s been on top of the game for quite a while already now. That’s why she’s won the last Grand Slams,” the second seed said.

In the 2003 Melbourne semi-final, Clijsters was leading 5-1 in the third set when Serena stepped up gear and went on to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I don’t think I did anything differently from 5-1 to when she won the match,” Clijsters added. “She just did not make any mistakes anymore. She was hitting winners on my first serves and things like that.

“That’s why she’s mentally so strong, because she can make her level go higher during a match.”

Henin-Hardenne may have been warned by her compatriot, but refused to sound too impressed.

“It’s just a tennis match and I have everything to win from it, nothing to lose,” she said.

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