Kim Clijsters has breathed a huge sigh of relief after keeping a possible all-Belgian Brisbane International final with Justine Henin on track at Pat Rafter Arena.
The top seed was made to look second rate by unseeded Czech Lucie Safarova in the second set of her quarterfinal on Thursday night before Clijsters eventually prevailed 6-1 0-6 6-4.
Safarova, ranked 41st in the world, stunned the US Open champion by racing through the set in 20 minutes, conceding just nine points as she hit winners from all over the court.
It was a like bolt from the blue by the lanky left-hander as Clijsters had lost just six games in her previous two matches, and no more than three in the one set.
Safarova continued her hot streak early in the deciding set but the top seed found her serving rhythm again and managed to break in the fifth game to wrestle back the momentum.
“In that first set I was playing really aggressively and was dominating and got a lot of second serves [to attack],” Clijsters said.
“But in the second set she really did that a lot better and raised her level.
“When I lost that set 6-0 I said ‘forget about it’ and I just refocused.”
Cheered on by her daughter Jada in the stands, the 26-year-old took five match points to clinch a berth in the semifinals where she’ll meet German Andrea Petkovic on Friday afternoon.
Compatriot Henin, making her comeback in Brisbane, also had her moments on Thursday, forced into a third set tiebreak by Hungary’s Melinda Szink, before progressing to a semifinal clash with Ana Ivanovic.
Clijsters denied she was surprised by the mercurial Safarova, who has been renowned as one of the most dangerous players on the WTA tour on her day.
A clay court specialist, the Czech’s career highlight was upsetting Henin in the Paris Indoors in 2007 but has rued her inconsistency.
“She’s beaten a lot of good players in the past so coming out here I knew I was in for a tough match,” Clijsters said.
But in the opening set the Brisbane crowd, worried they would have a short night at 0-5, couldn’t see a tight tussle developing as Safarova struggled to win a point.
They gave her raucous applause for hold of serve in the sixth game, which spurred her confidence.