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US Open Livestream Preview: Sharapova v Clijsters, 2005 semi-final

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Sharapova v Clijsters

In lieu of any live tennis to watch at the moment, the US Open have begun sharing classic, full-length matches on their Facebook and YouTube channels. This Saturday at 9pm (BST) they are premiering the 2005 semi-final between Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters. Here we take a look at the build up to that match and see exactly what was at stake.

Sharapova and Clijsters

17-year-old Maria Sharapova came into 2005 on the back of a star-making season the year before. She had picked up her first Grand Slam title by beating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and then backed that up by winning the WTA Championships, again with a final round victory over the same opponent, seemingly proving that her SW19 triumph had not been a fluke.

The young Russian began 2005 strongly, reaching the semi-finals in Australia, where she reignited her rivalry with Serena, but this time lost 8-6 in the third in spite of holding match points in the second and third sets. Undeterred, she went on to win the Pan Pacific Open and the Qatar Open in February, and reached the final in Miami before losing to Clijsters. Sharapova continued to put together deep runs, reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the semi-finals at Wimbledon, but her only other title win prior to the US Open was a defence on the grass at Birmingham.

Clijsters of Belgium and Hantuchova of Slovakia kiss after their women's singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne

Kim Clijsters of Belgium (R) and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia kiss after their women’s singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 20, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz (AUSTRALIA – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters came into the year on the back of a 2004 season that was plagued by injuries. She returned to the tour in February 2005 with little expected of her, but soon proved she was back to her best by winning back to back titles in Indian Wells and Miami. She followed that up with another win at Eastbourne and was then the in-form player of the American hard-court swing, picking up further titles in Stanford, Los Angeles, and Toronto, giving her a total of six for the season heading into New York.

At the US Open, Sharapova was the top seed, having reached world no. 1 for the first time in August on the back of her strong showings at the majors. Clijsters, in spite of her greater title haul, was seeded fourth as she had only reached the fourth round at the French Open and Wimbledon and had missed Australia and the previous year’s US Open due to injury.

Both women put in dominant performances through the opening rounds. Sharapova defeated Daniilidou 6-1 6-1 in R1, Randfraintefy 6-1 6-0 in R2, Schruff 6-2 6-4 in R3 and Mirza 6-2 6-1 in R4. Clijsters was equally as impressive, beating Muller 6-1 6-2 in R1, Zuluaga 7-5 6-0 in R2, Sugiyama 6-1 6-4 in R3 and Vento-Kalachi 6-1 6-0 in R4. In the quarter-final both women faced sterner tests. Sharapova faced Nadia Petrova but battled through to win 7-5 4-6 6-4 and Clijsters had a tough three-setter of her own, coming from a set down to top Venus Williams 4-6 7-5 6-1.

A blockbuster semi-final was set between the 18-year-old Sharapova, with a Wimbledon title already to her name, and the 22-year-old Clijsters who had overcame the previous numerous injury setbacks but who still had an 0-4 record in Grand Slam finals. The head-to-head record between the two was 3-0 in Clijsters’ favour, including that year’s Miami final (6-3 7-5), but their other two matches had been in 2003 before Sharapova’s breakthrough. The Russian had had the far better results at the majors in 2005 but Clijsters had been the stand-out performer during the summer hard-court season, so would the top seed give herself a shot at a second Grand Slam title or would the Belgian make it to a fifth major final, second at the US Open, and perhaps claim her very first? Join us from 9pm (BST) on Saturday to relive all the action right here.

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