Henin eyes third French title

2007-06-08 21:15
Paris - Success comes with perils for Justine Henin and her strategy is to simply ignore all her achievements.

The top-ranked Belgian player heads into Saturday's French Open final against seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic with more landmarks within her reach.

"I forget about this because it's not going to help me win," Henin said. "I just have to stay concentrated on me."

She could become the first woman to win three consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Monica Seles in 1990-92 and only the fifth to win the title at least four times since 1925.

Henin said: "You have to forget about expectations, because it's an added source of pressure. You don't need it. Everyone is waiting for you.

"And you also have to play well, if that's possible. It's not easy. It's not the kind of situation that gives me pleasure on a tennis court."

Henin leads Ivanovic 32-3 in singles titles, 5-0 in Grand Slam trophies, and 10-1 in Grand Slam finals.

But the tag of favourite rests uneasily with Henin, whose character was forged in adversity.

"Life has been hard with me in the past," Henin said. "I would love to have my mom with me; that's the only thing I would love to change. But in another way that gave me a lot of personality, a lot of character."

Trained in empty swimming pool

Henin was 12 when her mother died of cancer. She recently separated from husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne and reconciled with her father after a falling out. With her personal life weighing on her, Henin skipped the Australian Open in January.

The 19-year-old Ivanovic had troubles of her own when growing up in war-ravaged Serbia.

Tennis facilities were so threadbare that she trained in an emptied swimming pool doubling up as tennis court and travelled six hours by bus to neighbouring Hungary because it was impossible to get a visa out of Serbia for tournaments abroad.

Like Henin, Ivanovic is playing in her first Grand Slam final at the age of 19.

Henin lost the Wimbledon final to Venus Williams in 2001.

"I think it's important for me to relax and to play my game and try to play the best I can," Ivanovic said.

"Once I'm on the court, it's very important for me to think technically and what I should play, which kind of strokes," Ivanovic said. "And not think too much about the occasion."

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