Williams beats Henin to lift Australian Open trophy

2010-01-30 12:51

MELBOURNE – Serena Williams put an end to Justine Henin’s hopes of

a Grand Slam title on her return from retirement with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win in the

Australian Open final today.

Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before

securing her fifth Australian Open title and 12th Grand Slam singles

championship overall.

Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena,

couldn’t match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters’ feat of winning in her Grand

Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year’s U.S. Open on her return from

a two-year retirement after getting married and having a baby.

Williams won the last four games today to clinch the final in just

over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point before

shaking hands with Henin at the net.

“I definitely think she’s back,” Williams said of Henin at the

trophy presentations.

Still, it was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of

the Brisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.

The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players en

route to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympic gold medallist

Elena Dementieva in the second round.

“It’s been a very emotional two weeks for me,” said Henin, who put

her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. “I thought it would

never happen to me again. I’d like to congratulate Serena. She’s a real

champion. So well done, again.”

Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game run in

the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominant finish to the

set. She maintained the superiority early in the deciding set, increasing that

to 18 of 19 points before Williams held serve to level the third set at

1-1.

Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it

had been for much of the tournament, staged her own resurgence, breaking Henin

in the next game to go up 2-1. Henin broke Williams’ serve in the next game, but

the American broke back in the next to go up 3-2, a lead she never

relinquished.

Williams held her serve in the next game with a second-service ace

to go up 4-2, then broke again in the next game to take her within a game of the

title.

The American holds an 8-6 lead in career meetings between the pair,

including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008.

At the time, it equalled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and

Henin quit tennis two months later.

Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit from the 2006

final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 2-0.

Williams’ 12th singles major matched American great Billie Jean

King’s career total.

King was at the stadium today night to take part in a pre-match

ceremony to honour the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court’s four Grand Slam

tournament wins in 1970.

“Billie, we are tied,” Williams said. “So I’ve reached my

goal.”

The men’s doubles final between Bob and Mike Bryan of the United

States and Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia was scheduled

for later today. The Bryans have won the title here three of the past four years

and were losing finalists the two previous years.

The men’s final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray will be held

tomorrow night, where Murray will attempt to become the first British man since

Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam major.

The Australian Open is Murray’s 17th Grand Slam tournament, which

is how many attempts Federer needed before winning for the first time at

Wimbledon seven years ago against Mark Philippoussis.

Murray was beaten 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final in

2008.

Two years later, the now 22-year-old Murray thinks he knows how to

end the 74-year drought.

“I’m going to need to play my best match ever,” Murray said today.

“That’s what I plan on doing. If I do, I’ve got a good chance of winning.”

Federer played in all four finals last year and will be appearing

in his 22nd Grand Slam final overall, an all-time record. He acknowledged that

the pressure will be on Murray.

“I know what it takes (to win) and how to do it, which is

definitely an advantage,” Federer said. “I don’t feel like the pressure’s really

on me having to do it again. I think he really needs it more than I do.”

Federer joked about the British drought after his semifinal win

yesterday.

“I know he’d like to win the first for British tennis since, what

is it 150,000 years?” Federer joked.

Murray smiled today when told of Federer’s comment.

“I’ve only been alive for 22 and a little bit, but, yeah, it’s been

a long time. It’s going to be tough.”


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