Defending Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters said she faced an anxious wait to find out the condition of her injured ankle after her remarkable win over China's Li Na on Sunday.
Clijsters rolled her left ankle midway through the first set of her dramatic fourth-round match, before staging what she described as the best comeback of her career.
The Belgian saved four match points in the second set, coming from 6-2 down in a tie-break to defeat a shell-shocked Li 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.
It was a magnificent turnaround from the Belgian, who looked down and out as she hobbled to her chair at 3-3 in the first set after rolling her ankle during a baseline rally.
Clijsters, who had her leg raised during her post-match press conference, said she did not know the extent of her injury or how it would heal before her quarter-final against Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday.
The top seed Wozniacki saw off the challenge of former world number one Jelena Jankovic in straight sets.
The day was all about Clijsters though, who added another indelible Australian Open memory to those from her run to the title last year.
"It's only the first hour since I'm done. I'm taped already and I was fully covered in the ice bath for the ankle and everything," she said.
"I have the best people around me to take care of me and to make sure that this is hopefully not going to get any worse than it is now.
"That's why I'm sitting here with my leg up, to try and keep the swelling down as much as possible. We will see."
Clijsters admitted she had briefly considered pulling out when she suffered the injury.
"It definitely crossed my mind at some point (to pull out) but I knew if I could just try to let the medication sink in, or if I could get through the first 20 minutes, half-hour, I think the pain would go away a little bit and then maybe with the adrenaline I could just fly through it," she said.
The much-anticipated rematch of last year's final had threatened to turn into a huge anti-climax as Clijsters struggled to continue after the fall.
Clijsters decided to battle on, but it soon became obvious that she was not moving as well as she normally does and she had trouble chasing down Li's wide balls.
She managed to hold her serve after the injury but Li then broke Clijsters' next service game and held her own to take the first set in 43 minutes.
Clijsters started slowly in the second set but began to move better and forced the set into a tie-break.
Li opened a 6-2 lead, only for Clijsters to win six points in a row to level the match, the last an audacious lob that left the Chinese stranded at the net.
"I didn't want to give her anything for free," Clijsters said of the four match points.
"If she was going to come up with an ace or with a winner, you know, too good, but I didn't want to make the mistake.
"I think she was a little bit lost or maybe a little bit confused at that time and she made two pretty easy mistakes when we changed sides.
"That made me believe in it even more in the beginning of that third set to just stick through it from the beginning and try to get as many breaks as I could in the beginning."
By this point the match had swung firmly back towards Clijsters as Li lost her first two service games and the defending champion raced into a 4-0 lead.
She fought back but it was too late and Clijsters sealed victory when a Li backhand hit the net on her second match point.
"I knew beforehand it was going to be a tough match, physically, mentally, everything," Clijsters said.
"But I didn't expect this - it was amazing to get through."
Wozniacki raced away with the first set and edged the second to win 6-0, 7-5, with the Serbian 13th seed making a huge 50 unforced errors in a match lasting one hour and 43 minutes.
The Dane looked like running away with the contest when leading 4-1 in the second set, but Jankovic staged a late comeback before the Dane sealed the win on her second match point.
"My confidence is high, my fitness is good, I feel like my play is improving so I'm very positive," said Wozniacki. "I thought I played a great set and a half today but then she started to play well."
AFPTags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia First posted January 22, 2012 19:17:49