When Justine Henin defeated Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open, I remarked to someone that if she keeps serving like that, no one can stop her.
But she didn't keep serving like that. In fact, she didn't continue to do a lot of things she did against Zvonareva. I wasn't able to tune in to her quarterfinal match against Caroline Wozniacki until it was 4-all in the first set. It was obvious, though, that Henin's serve was off. Her forehand was way off. When she got it working again, her backhand failed her. When she got that working, her serve would go off again. She also had something wrong with her back, and had to receive treatment. It just didn't look like a good day for her.
Henin did serve for the first set, but Wozniacki broke her. Wozniacki went on to win that set in a tiebreak, and she looked so steady and precise--the opposite of Henin--that I was already thinking, "Now, this is going to get Wozniacki some respect."
But even when she isn't playing that well, Henin has reserves of skill and mental strength, and she called on them in the second set, which she won 6-3, breaking Wozniacki just once in five opportunities, but once was enough. She then broke early in the third set, and suddenly--almost out of nowhere, in contrast to her earlier performance--just about everything began working for her. The serve returned, and out came the slice. Henin hit a total of 52 winners and emerged the 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victor, and--while Wozniacki comported herself well--she just wasn't up to the task of overcoming the likes of Justine Henin.
In the other semifinal, Kim Clijsters showed that aggression pays off. She dominated Sam Stosur just enough to take the first set, 6-3. Stosur took more risks in the second set, but as it grew tight toward the end, there seemed to be a cloud of doubt hovering over her, while Clijsters never let up. Stosur did put on a serving clinic, but it wasn't enough to overcome a quick-moving, opportunity-grabbing Clijsters. At 5-all, the second set looked like it could go either way, but Clijsters broke Stosur, who suddenly could do nothing but make errors. The Belgian then held for 7-5.
Clijsters will play Henin in the semifinals. Just like old times.