Kim Clijsters is forced to withdraw

AUSTRALIAN Open champion Kim Clijsters retired from her semi-final match against Daniela Hantuchova at the Brisbane International yesterday one game after taking a medical time out for a left hip injury.

Clijsters won the opening set 7-6 (7-4) but surrendered a break at the start of the second set and needed treatment after the third game. She came back on court for one game before walking to the net and telling Hantuchova she couldn’t continue after falling behind 3-1.

Hantuchova has had an abbreviated run into today’s final, getting a walkover in the quarter-finals when 13-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament after injuring her left ankle while winning a second-round match. Hantuchova will next play Kaia Kanepi, of Estonia, who beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, of Italy, 6-3, 6-0.

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Clijsters struggled with injuries last season and only played eight tournaments, including the win at the Australian Open which helped her return to the No 1 ranking for one week. The Brisbane International was her first tournament since an abdominal injury ended her season in September and the latest injury casts doubt on her ability to defend her title at the first major of 2012. The Australian Open starts on 16 January in Melbourne.

The 28-year-old Clijsters, who has won three Grand Slam singles titles since returning from time out of the game to have a baby in 2008, said she was hopeful that medical scans today would give the all clear to compete in Melbourne.

She said that her hip had started to go into spasms during the match and she withdrew from the tournament to avoid a serious rupture.