Compatriot game

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

Rogers Cup ratings should go through the roof today in Belgium.

But even if you're not from Belgium, you likely will be intrigued by this matchup if you're a fan of women's tennis.

Bucking all trends, the beleaguered Rogers Cup actually waded its way to something of a marquee singles final.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, 23, is from Belgium. She is ranked fourth in this event and fifth in the world.

Kim Clijsters, 22, also is from Belgium. She is ranked seventh in this event and eighth in the world.

Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters have played each other 18 times in the past, all around the globe. They are tied in victories 9-9.

The rubber match is on tap today at the Rexall Centre at York University, beginning at 2 p.m. (CTV).

"We are very different on and off the court, total opposites," Henin-Hardenne said of Clijsters. "We were close when we were younger. When you're a pro it's hard to keep up the friendship. But we respect each other a lot."

Henin-Hardenne won this tournament two years ago, the last time it was in Toronto. Clijsters will be making her first appearance in a final in Canada.

Henin-Hardenne had a tougher time in the semi-finals yesterday than Clijsters did.

Henin-Hardenne needed three sets to dispose of No. 2 seed and defending Rogers Cup champion Amelie Mauresmo of France 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. Clijsters kicked around her close buddy Anastasia Myskina of Russia, the ninth seed, 6-4, 6-1.

"(Henin-Hardenne) probably is the best (defensive) player out there at the moment," Clijsters said when asked about her opponent for the final today.

"She just has this unbelievable touch with her hands, especially with her slice. I mean, she can just keep getting those balls back. You have to always expect every ball back."

Henin-Hardenne has won five of her past seven matches against Clijsters, with all seven occurring in tournament finals.

Mauresmo had Henin-Hardenne on the ropes in the middle of their match last night. But Mauresmo got angry about what she perceived to be a bad call during the third game of the third set, and she never won another game.

"It's never comfortable to feel (a call) didn't go the right way," Mauresmo said. "But that did not make the difference."

The fiery Myskina wasn't nearly as intense yesterday as she was in the quarter-finals on Friday. Myskina had sprained her left ankle quite badly in a match on Thursday.

The Myskina-Clijsters match was tied 4-4 in the first set when Myskina lost her focus momentarily and suddenly Clijsters had won the set. Myskina looked as if she had given up mentally.

"It's for money and it's for points, but no matter what happens on the court, we're going to be friends," Myskina said of her relationship with Clijsters.

Added Clijsters, "I don't have to hate people to win matches."

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, 48, will take part in the doubles final today at 11 a.m.


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