JUSTINE HENIN’S fairytale comeback continued as she moved one step closer to a dream Australian Open title with a quarter-final victory over Nadia Petrova.
The former world No1, playing in her first Grand Slam since coming out of retirement, showed her battling qualities to come through a tough match 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 and book a place in the last four.
There, she will play Jie Zheng of China, who eased past Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3.
Henin is playing in only her second tournament after an 18-month retirement and was forced to dig deep against Russian Petrova, who had already shocked Kim Clijsters and Svetlana Kuznetsova in earlier rounds.
“I’m here again in the last four,” said the delighted Belgian, playing in her first Grand Slam since losing to Maria Sharapova at this stage in Melbourne two years ago.
“It’s just much more than what I could expect and the dream continues. But there’s still a long way to go. I’ll just try to be focused on what I have to do on the court and hope it keeps going this way.
“I’ll have good recovery and two good nights. That’s what I need. But it’s just a great feeling to be in the semis of the first Grand Slam since I’m back.”
Zheng, meanwhile, eased into only her second Grand Slam semi-final, following her efforts at Wimbledon in 2008, with a comfortable victory over Kirilenko, who was clearly feeling the effects of a leg injury.
“[Steffi] Graf is my favourite player, No1,” Zheng revealed. “Justine is No3. I admire her because she is so strong mentally.
“I enjoy watching her play. I think it is a tough match for me, a big challenge, but I like it.”