BRISBANE Kim Clijsters faces a tight deadline to be fit in time for her Australian Open defence after she was forced to retire injured from her Brisbane International semi-final against Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova on Friday.
Clijsters had fought back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set to win a tiebreak but took an injury timeout after the third game of the second set, with Hantuchova leading 2-1, for treatment on a hip injury.
The 28-year-old four-times grand-slam champion returned but lost the next game and then retired with the score at 6-7 3-1.
Hantuchova, who received a walkover into the semi-finals after Serena Williams pulled out with an ankle injury, will meet Kaia Kanepi in the final on Saturday after the big-hitting Estonian demolished Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-0 in 56 minutes.
"I felt my left hip was getting tighter and tighter to the point I couldn't move forward with my upper body," said Belgian Clijsters, adding that she had felt tightness in her hip before the semi-final.
"The smartest choice was not to let it get any worse and try to be right for Melbourne.
"If everything comes out okay tomorrow it should take a little (less than) a week to get completely healed."
The Australian Open, the first grand-slam tournament of the year, begins on January 16.
In the Brisbane men's draw, top seed Andy Murray looked far sharper than in his earlier matches and romped into the semi-finals with a 6-2 6-2 thrashing of Marcos Baghdatis.
The world number four, who will bid to break his grand-slam drought at the Australian Open, had been less than convincing in his two previous matches but was ruthless against the Cypriot.
The 24-year-old Briton broke the former Australian Open finalist's serve four times and served out in 66 minutes.
"I felt solid on the ball and because I was moving better he didn't hit too many winners," said Murray, who played doubles with Baghdatis in Brisbane.
The Scot was pleased with his movement around the court.
"It's a huge part of my game and when that goes well then normally the rest of my game improves a lot.
"I can dictate more of the point, I can make it harder for my opponents to get the ball through me. That's what I did from the start."
Murray will now meet Bernard Tomic after the Australian teenager beat Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-3 7-6.
Saturday's semi-final will be the first for Tomic at an ATP Tour-level tournament though Murray said he would not be taking the 19-year-old lightly.
"He's very unorthodox, very different to a lot of the guys on the tour nowadays," Murray said of last year's Wimbledon quarter-finalist.
"He's quite unpredictable. He can play a couple of games where he doesn't do much then he can play three or four great games so you have to be on the ball against him mentally."
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Clare Fallon)