Confident Clijsters powers into Brisbane semifinals

    Belgium's Kim Clijsters will be looking looking to defend her Australian Open crown in Melbourne later this month.

    Story highlights

    • Kim Clijsters beats Iveta Benesova in straight sets to reach Brisbane semifinals
    • The fifth seed will face Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals
    • Italy's Francesca Schiavone and Estonia's Kaia Kanepi also reach the last four
    • Top seed Sabine Lisicki pulls out of the ASB Classic with an abdominal injury
    Fifth seed Kim Clijsters booked her place in the semifinals of the Brisbane International on Thursday with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 win over Czech Iveta Benesova.
    The former world number one has won eight matches in a row at the Queensland event stretching back to her 2010 triumph, having skipped the tournament last year.
    Four-time grand slam winner Clijsters looked in good shape ahead of her Australian Open title defense later this month, wrapping up victory in one hour and 19 minutes against a player who eliminated Australian top seed Sam Stosur in the previous round.
    "I'm starting to feel more confident," the 28-year-old told the tournament website. "The little bit of the up and down maybe I had in my previous matches, especially in the one against Ana (Ivanovic), that wasn't there, which was good."
    Clijsters will next face Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova, who received a walkover following the withdrawal of 13-time grand slam champion Serena Williams on Wednesday.
    Italian third seed Francesca Schiavone came from behind to beat Serbia's Jelena Jankovic 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 as she struggled to hold her serve.
    "I shouldn't go there, down 3-0, 5-3 and 3-1," the frustrated 31-year-old said. "I could finish faster. I will try to not do it again."
    Her semifinal opponent is Estonia's Kaia Kanepi, who shocked second seed and 2011 runner-up Andrea Petkovic of Germany.
    Kanepi spurned four match points before sealing a 6-1 7-6 (9-7) victory at a packed Pat Rafter Arena.
    Meanwhile, top seed Sabine Lisicki is out of the ASB Classic in New Zealand after withdrawing from her quarterfinal due to an abdominal injury.
    The German, seeking her fourth career title in Auckland, lost the first set against compatriot Angelique Kerber and trailed 3-4 in the second when she pulled out.
    "I have something with my abdominals, it hurts when I serve," the 22-year-old said. "I kept fighting. I tried it. Unfortunately I couldn't finish."
    Kerber next faces Italian fourth seed Flavia Pennetta in a repeat of the 2011 U.S. quarterfinal, which the German won. Penetta advanced by beating Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-2.
    Russian third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and China's Zheng Jie will contest the other semifinal, after defeating Italy's Sara Errani and Lucie Hredecka of the Czech Republic respectively.
    Elsewhere, France booked their place in the Hopman Cup final with victory over Spain in their winner-takes-all Group B clash.
    World No.9 Marion Bartoli claimed the opening rubber for France, beating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-2 6-4 .
    Richard Gasquet defeated Fernando Verdasco by the score to hand France an unassailable 2-0 lead and a place in Saturday's final.
    In the other Group B tie, hosts Australia restored a degree of pride with a 2-1 win over China.
    The 2011 French Open champion Li Na gave China a 1-0 in the dead-rubber tie with victory over Jarmila Gajdosova. But two-time grand slam champion Lleyton Hewitt responded for Australia by scoring a 6-4 7-5 win over Wu Di.
    Australia clinched victory in the doubles rubber by winning the first to eight games "Pro-set" 8-5.