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Mertens wows herself with semi-final spot

After chalking up the biggest win of her career, Elise Mertens has set her sights on following in the footsteps of her idol Kim Clijsters and taking the Australian Open title home to Belgium.

Playing for the first time in the Open, the unseeded Mertens made her maiden grand slam semi-final by shocking world No.4 Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

Svitolina was a pre-tournament title favourite, having won nine matches straight to open her summer, and was in line to take over the world No.1 ranking with success at Melbourne Park.

Ranked outside the top 100 12 months ago, Mertens said she wouldn’t have believed it if told pre-tournament that a final four berth was hers.

“I’d laugh a little bit,” said Mertens, who had never previously beaten a top-five opponent or made it past a grand slam third round.

“Everything is possible in tennis but of course semis is ‘wow’.”

On the back of her second Hobart International title, the 22-year-old produced fearless tennis, hitting 26 winners in a dominant display.

Hampered by a hip injury, Ukrainian Svitolina, who is one of the best movers on tour, was unable to respond with her service game particularly affected.

“I was in the zone today,” Mertens said.

“It was a really great match. I played really well, so I’m really happy.”

A devastated Svitolina, who despite her ranking was also making her first appearance in a grand slam fourth round, said she had been restricted in her play and training since winning the Brisbane International.

“I start to feel it actually after the final in Brisbane and then it was getting worse and then was up and down,” the 23-year-old said.

“I couldn’t now play my game, because my tennis is so physical so I have to be ready 100 per cent.”

Mertens trains at the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium, often hitting with the four-time grand slam champion, who won the Open in 2011.

She said Clijsters had been in regular in contact with her during the tournament.

“She has been here before and she has the experience, so it’s always nice to talk to her,” Mertens said.

“I’m trying to follow in your footsteps this week,” she added when asked if she had a message for Clijsters.

Due to face Danish second seed Caroline Wozniacki or Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro in Thursday’s semi-finals, Mertens felt she had nothing to lose.

“I’m a bit, well, the underdog,” she said.

“But I’m ready for it.”

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