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PERTH, Jan 1 AAP - Australia and the USA may be every punter's tip for the Hopman Cup tennis final but world No.5 Kim Clijsters is intent on steering Belgium to the final and a possible showdown with boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt.

Clijsters, who spent Christmas in Adelaide with Hewitt, today joined her partner Xavier Malisse in warning against dismissing the fifth-ranked Belgians.

"I think we've got a shot at it," Malisse said. "It's just three matches, if you have a great day and someone else has a bad day it's possible."

Clijsters said the mixed doubles event made predicting winners particularly difficult because the best singles players did not necessarily make the best doubles players.

However, she believes her partnership with Malisse, which today produced a 6-3 6-4 doubles win to seal a 2-1 win over Italy, stood Belgium in good stead.

"I think we match up pretty well," she said. "Xavier is really handy, he serves well and has good returns and I think we should go alright together."

Belgium dropped the first rubber when world No.31 Francesca Schiavone caused the upset of the tournament with a straight sets victory over an out-of-sorts Clijsters.

Clijsters, the tournament's highest-ranked female, was sluggish and uncharacteristically careless in the 6-4 6-4 loss. She made 50 unforced errors while Schiavone produced the match of her career by running down everything and waiting for Clijsters to self destruct. It was not until set point that the 19-year-old girlfriend of Australia's world No.1 began to find her spark.

She saved seven set points against the plucky Italian until a stunning one-handed backhand down the line from Schiavone gave Italy a 1-0 lead in the tie.

"I was rallying alright, I just couldn't finish off the points," Clijsters said. "It was just the winners that were missing, I had so many chances to finish off the points easily and just made some easy mistakes."

If Clijsters can fasttrack her return to form, Belgium's hopes of reaching the final would lie with world No.35 Malisse.

Malisse equalised the tie today when he dispatched 79th-ranked Davide Sanguinetti 6-4 7-5 in the men's singles and was also prominent in the mixed doubles.

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Thanks for the article!<br />They seem to match up quite good. <br />On Belgian teletext Kim said that it was fantastic to play mixed with Xavier, that she didn't had to work as hard as in a mixed double with Lleyton! She said that Xavier hits the ball a lot harder than Lleyton and that she will definetly tell this to Lleyton so he knows on what he still can improve!

Well done Xavier and Kim and good luck in the next matches (Kim, please win your single matches then!) <img src="biggrin.gif" border="0">
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