A Sorry Exhibition by Henin in Defeat

Times Staff Writer

Question of the day: Will the Kim Clijsters-Justine Henin exhibition next week in their home country, Belgium, be more competitive than their quarterfinal match at the Home Depot WTA Championships on Friday afternoon? The standard to surpass is not high.

The hard-hitting Clijsters did not encounter much resistance, especially after the first set, as she routed the fourth-seeded Henin, 6-2, 6-1, in 59 minutes at Staples Center before an estimated 500 fans. Henin looked as though she was going through the motions, holding serve only once in the second set and winning one point in the final two games.

In the semifinals, No. 5 Clijsters will face No. 2 Venus Williams, who beat No. 6 Monica Seles, 7-5, 6-4, in the night session.

Clijsters is 5-2 against Henin, her childhood friend and junior traveling partner, and has always won their most important matches, in the 2001 French Open semifinals, the 2002 Australian Open quarterfinals and Friday's meeting at the $3-million season-ending tournament.

Henin had five winners to 15 for Clijsters, and committed 33 unforced errors to Clijsters' 22.

"I was really tired during the match, and I felt without energy," said Henin, who is being married next week but said that has not been an emotional distraction.

The players talk about being exhausted but undercut their arguments about the season being too long by agreeing to appear in postseason exhibitions.

Clijsters and Henin have the upcoming event in Belgium, and seven other players in the field -- Seles, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, Jelena Dokic, Daniela Hantuchova and Venus and Serena Williams -- are playing a special event in Dublin next month.

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There has been a change in tonight's schedule. The doubles match featuring Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain and Paola Suarez of Argentina against Ai Sugiyama and Rika Fujiwara of Japan is to start at 6, followed by the final quarterfinal between No. 8 Dokic and No. 1 Serena Williams. Dokic-Williams will not start before 8.

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