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· Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Martina Hingis will get another chance against Jennifer Capriati in a rematch of last year's Australian Open final.

Capriati, the defending champion, outlasted fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in Thursday's semifinals at Melbourne Park. Three-time winner Hingis advanced to her sixth consecutive Australian final when she rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Monica Seles.

Capriati's Australian win last year was the highlight of a phenomenal comeback for the former teen prodigy, who dropped off the tour during her tumultuous youth. She reached the French Open semifinals in 1990 at age 14 and won the Olympic gold medal in 1992.

Last year, she became the lowest-seeded player (12th) to win an Australian Open when she produced consecutive wins over Seles, 2000 Australian champion Lindsay Davenport and Hingis.

Capriati went on to win the French Open, reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and hold the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Hingis believes she has the upper hand for the rematch with Capriati.

``It will be great to play her in the finals. Now it's the other way around -- she has to defend the title and I'm the rookie.''

Capriati admitted that Hingis was in the unusual position as underdog.

``For the first time, going up against her, it's like I'm the one favored to win,'' Capriati said. ``I know definitely how she feels, being in that position, because I was in that position last year. I know she wants it bad, but I want it bad, too.''

Against Clijsters, Capriati was inconsistent as she split the opening two sets before dominating the third.

``Obviously, I'm pretty fatigued right now,'' Capriati said. ``We were doing a lot of running, a lot of hard hitting out there.''

In their previous meeting, Capriati edged Clijsters 12-10 in the third set to win the 2001 French Open. The deciding set was the longest in a women's final at Roland Garros.

On Thursday, Capriati raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set with two service breaks before she twice lost her own serve. But the 25-year-old American got another break in the 11th game and then held serve.

She lost concentration in the second, when she made the bulk of her 37 unforced errors, and Clijsters used her powerful backhand to full effect to even the match at a set apiece.

Capriati saved a break point in the opening game of the third set and then broke Clijsters in the second and sixth games to take a decisive lead.

The top-ranked Capriati won the final game at love on two backhand misses by Clijsters and two aces, including one on match point.

Capriati said she allowed Clijsters to dictate too much in the second, ``but I changed it up a bit, became more aggressive, and it started to work. Eventually, she just broke down.''

Clijsters finished with 46 errors, including 24 in the first set. She won only one point at the net in the third and didn't hit a backhand winner. Capriati won five of her six points at the net in the deciding set and had eight winners against two for Clijsters.

``It was weird. I was very motivated after winning the second set. I felt she was struggling a little bit -- I could hear her puff,'' Clijsters said. ``I wanted to make her run, but she just played too good. She played the points short, finished them off as soon as she could.''


Hingis was stretched against Seles, who was coming off a quarterfinal upset over No. 2 Venus Williams.

``I believe in it again now, and it's a great feeling,'' said Hingis, who hasn't won a major since her last win at Melbourne Park.

Seles, a four-time Australian winner, overpowered Hingis and worked her around the court with groundstrokes down the lines in the first set. But Seles started to fade in the second and third and finished with 40 unforced errors, 28 more than Hingis.

Hingis raced to a 5-1 lead in the final set, but Seles rallied to 5-4.

But the 21-year-old Swiss star held her nerve to close the match when Seles put a forehand wide.

``I think Martina was just more consistent,'' Seles said. ``I made too many unforced errors at key times -- I felt I had a lot of mishits. Against a player like Martina, you cannot afford that.''

Hingis said she had to lift her game after the first set, when Seles had 20 winners.

``There was nothing I could do at the beginning. She was hitting winners all the time,'' Hingis said.

``I was trying to make her move as much as I could and wait for my chances.''

Hingis, in her second tournament back after ankle surgery last October, said she was playing better than ever.

``It's a great thing -- six consecutive finals -- and I feel better than in the last two years, definitely,'' Hingis said. ``And I think I'm back up to where I used to be.

``You always question if you're capable of winning another if you haven't won a Grand Slam in three years.''
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