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Belgian final down under

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Top-ranked Justin Henin-Hardenne advanced to her fourth Grand Slam final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Fabiola Zuluaga at the Australian Open.

Henin-Hardenne, winner of the French and U.S. Opens last season, reached her first final at Melbourne Park. She faces second-seeded Kim Clijsters in a third all-Belgian Grand Slam championship match. Clijsters defeated Patty Schnyder 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

Clijsters passed a morning fitness test on her injured left ankle. She hurt herself at the Hopman Cup and was sidelined for two weeks before the Open. Clijsters aggravated the injury in a quarterfinal victory over sixth-seeded Anastasia Myskina.

Henin-Hardenne made 25 unforced errors, including 15 in the second set, but said she played well on the big points against the 32nd-seeded Zuluaga.

"It was a good fight, long rallies, I played well on the important points and served well when I had to," Henin-Hardenne said. "I'm feeling good _ I have won all my matches in two sets. I have a lot of motivation, and it's great to be in the final."

Wimbledon champion Roger Federer beat eighth-seeded David Nalbandian 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, and French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero eliminated Hicham Arazi 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5). It set up a semifinal with the No. 1 ranking at stake.

The winner will play defending champion Andre Agassi or Marat Safin in the final.

"(Wednesday) was a good test, and I think I passed," Ferrero said. "I need some rest (Wednesday and today). I'm very motivated to get (No. 1) again. I'm playing very good, very solid."

He was supplanted atop the ATP Tour rankings by Andy Roddick late last season. Roddick will drop after losing to Marat Safin.

Ferrero needs to beat Federer and Andre Agassi or Safin in the final to return to No. 1. Federer will get there for the first time if he beats Ferrero.

"I think my math is good enough to figure that out," Federer said, referring to the complicated ranking system.

Federer has not had much success against Nalbandian in the past. He entered the match with a 1-5 record.

But the Swiss star overcame 55 unforced errors with the right shots at the right times.

At 5-all in the first set, Federer faced double-break point but ripped four straight aces to hold serve.

"I don't think I've ever hit four aces in a row," Federer said. "That was maybe the key of the match. It looked like he was going to run away with the set."

Instead, Federer grabbed the momentum, breaking Nalbandian in the next game to win the set.

Nalbandian put some pressure on by taking the third set, but Federer broke Nalbandian's service game to go up 2-0 in the fourth. He rode the advantage to finish off the match with his 20th ace and a serve Nalbandian hit long.

Ferrero held on against 51st-ranked Arazi, though he was getting tired, his injured groin muscles were aching and Arazi had him sprinting all over the court.

Arazi had knocked off No. 25 Albert Costa and No. 10 Mark Philippoussis but came out cold against Ferrero, who won seven straight games spanning the first and second sets.

NO FANS OF FUN: Philippoussis was having a grand ol' time at the Open. He made it to the fourth round and brought a group of buddies to cheer him on.

But after his fourth-round loss to Arazi, some Australian players criticized his decision to have so many friends as part of his entourage.

John Alexander, a former top player, said in a newspaper column Philippoussis needs to learn there is "a time for tennis and a time for socializing."

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash also was critical, while countryman Todd Woodbridge was quoted as saying that his Davis Cup teammate was "the type of guy who's been happy to give 70 percent."

Australia's Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald has no problem with Philippoussis having a good time _ as long as he plays hard.

Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt, along with doubles players Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs, were chosen to play Davis Cup for the defending champions.

"I'm happy if my players are happy and they're committed to playing Davis Cup for our country," Fitzgerald said. "If they're happy off the court, fantastic, that's the way I'd like them to be."

Fitzgerald pointed to last year's success.

"Put it this way, our team has a great rapport that was obvious last year," he said. "All four players were unbelievably committed to win the Davis Cup and represent us, and I think it continues to be that way."

STILL GOING STRONG: Martina Navratilova is starting her final season quite well.

At 47, Navratilova is still among the world's top mixed doubles players. She and partner Leander Paes beat Paul Hanley and Trudi Musgrave 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) to reach the semifinals.

Navratilova, who already owns nine Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, and Paes are the defending champions.