Clijsters hurdle in Li Na's way

Clijsters hurdle in Li Na's way

The genial Belgian in a pea green dress enjoys the fond nickname “Aussie Kim” at the Melbourne Grand Slam but if, as expected, she finds enough firepower to dash Li's dreams of becoming Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion, crowd celebrations may be muted from a public which has rapidly warmed to the Chinese player.

In any case, Clijsters knows that despite being tournament favourite she cannot afford any slips in her bid to shatter Chinese hopes and will not make the mistake of underestimating Li, who has firmly shed her reputation for mental fragility with her dream run in Melbourne.
“(In the past) she was never quite able to make it through a whole Grand Slam,” third seed
Clijsters told reporters on Friday. “Mentally (now) you see a big difference.”

It remains to be seen if Li carried out her threat to make husband and coach Jiang Shan sleep in the bathroom on the eve of the women's final because of his snoring. The ninth seed, who said the final also marked the couple's wedding anniversary, blamed her slow start in the semifinal victory over world number one Caroline Wozniacki on Jiang's nocturnal noise.

Clijsters, whose relationship with Australian player Lleyton Hewitt endeared her to fans Down Under, has won three Grand Slam titles and is in devastating form. She is yet to drop a set on her way to a second Australian Open final, and first since 2004.

The working mum, who captured two of her three US Open crowns after returning to the women's game in 2009 following a two-year break, has shown scant regard for sentimentality.

She handed fellow former world number one Dinara Safina the dreaded 'double bagel' with a 6-0, 6-0 first round blowout which left the Russian in floods of tears.

Her 6-3, 6-3 semifinal victory over second seed Vera Zvonareva was no less brutal and she will replace the Russian as world number two when the new rankings are published.