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Clijsters, Zvonareva hitting top gear

Melbourne: Kim Clijsters warned she was
hitting top form ahead of her Australian Open quarter-final,
while world number two Vera Zvonareva will hope to again prove
her critics wrong.

The two remain on a collision course for the semi-finals
-- a rematch of last year`s US Open title match -- as
Clijsters prepares to take on Agnieszka Radwanska and
Zvonareva faces Petra Kvitova in Wednesday`s quarters.

Clijsters and Zvonareva met in the US Open decider at
Flushing Meadows in 2010, with the Belgian playing almost
flawless tennis to destroy her Russian opponent 6-2, 6-1.

Former world number one Clijsters, 28, has reached the
last eight without dropping a set, after romping through her
first two matches and then surviving two tighter encounters.

After opening her campaign with a stunning 6-0, 6-0 win
over former world number one Dinara Safina, the Belgian then
demolished Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.

But her matches against Alize Cornet and Ekaterina
Makarova have been much closer, with the third seed pushed
hard in the early stages on both occasions and showing signs
of frailty before recovering.

"I think my first match against Safina and tonight`s
match (against Makarova) were definitely a lot better, so I
definitely felt a big improvement compared to my previous
match," Clijsters said.

Radwanska, who halted China`s Peng Shuai in the round of
16, is playing her first tournament since coming back from a
stress fracture in her foot. She said she had already
surpassed her goals.

"I think this is unbelievable, I really feel great," she
said after beating Peng. "Not even till the last minute did I
know I was going to play here.”

"I was just very happy after the first match that I was
playing a match without any pain. Even if I had lost the first
round, I would have been happy anyway that I didn`t miss the
Grand Slam and I`m back on tour."

Zvonareva has been making her way through the draw almost
unnoticed, despite her status as world number two, as she
quietly creeps towards a third straight Grand Slam final.

But the 26-year-old Muscovite, who could finish the
tournament as world number one if results go her way, said
people may be finally starting to show her some respect.

"If I perform well and I win matches, you know, I think
people will respect me, but it`s not something I really think
about," she said.

"There are a lot of people that always underestimated me
and there are a lot of people that never believed in me and
there are a lot of people that thought I never will make it to
even like Grand Slam semi-finals or something."

Zvonareva also reached the Wimbledon final in 2010 and
said she had now built up a wealth of experience which would
stand her in good stead in the days ahead.

"I learned a lot over the past two Grand Slams -- I think
I tried to use it to my advantage," she said. "I tried to
prepare myself for my matches the best I can."

She will need all her experience against Kvitova, the
tall left-hander with a swinging serve and booming
groundstrokes, who won the Brisbane International at the start
of the year and is on a nine-match winning streak.

Kvitova, 20, overcame a nervous start to overwhelm
Italian Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 as she aims to match or
better last year`s Wimbledon semi-final appearance.

Reigning champion Serena Williams is out with a foot
injury, Venus Williams retired with a muscle strain and other
ex-number ones Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic,
Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina are already beaten.

Bureau Report