April 17, 2005
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Henin-Hardenne Captures 2nd Family Circle Cup
CHARLESTON, S.C. - One year after Justine Henin-Hardenne was forced to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup with what turned out to be a long battle with a viral illness, the former world No.1 returned to the center stage in Charleston.
In just her second event of 2005, Henin-Hardenne captured her 20th career singles title on Sunday, defeating No.2 seed Elena Dementieva in the championship match, 75 64.
"When I decided to come back into competition, I knew what it was to win, but it's just amazing, my second tournament, and I win here in Charleston for the second time," Henin-Hardenne said. "Everything was perfect today. Even the match was very good, so that's very also positive for the future."
In the first set, Dementieva went up a break late in the set at 5-3 before things started heading south. After missing an opportunity to serve out the first set, Dementieva also failed to convert on a set point on Henin-Hardenne's serve at 5-4. Instead, the Belgian player won the final four games to take the set.
Henin-Hardenne was able to carry much of the momentum into the early stages of the second set. After each player traded early breaks, Henin-Hardenne was able to hold serve and eventually emerge with a 4-1 lead.
But Dementieva grabbed a break back for 4-2 and then held serve for the first time since the seventh game of the match for 4-3. After breaking once more to even the match at 4-4, Dementieva was unable to keep on serve as Henin-Hardenne breaks back for 5-4 and then served out the match - winning the title on her third championship point.
"I never thought about winning this tournament when I arrived here," Henin-Hardenne said. "Every time I go on the court it's to win the match, but I was very focused on my first round and then my second round, and I just went step by step, but I could never imagine that I would play this level for my first tournament on clay and then win this tournament.
"I had a pretty tough draw, and especially when you're unseeded, it's not easy. I played six matches here, which is good, because physically I could see that I had a good recovery, but nothing in my mind that I could win when I arrived here in Charleston."
Dating back to her 2003 run at Charleston, Henin-Hardenne is now 11-0 at the South Carolina event. She is also 10-1 since making her 2005 debut at Miami where she reached the quarterfinals.
"It is a very good place," said Henin-Hardenne on her fondness for Charleston. "It's such a nice atmosphere. I think that the crowd gave me such great support, and especially this year that they knew I was coming back, it was probably a little bit more support again, but I never lost a match here in Charleston, so I hope I can keep going this way and I'll come back next year for sure."
Henin-Hardenne also joined Iva Majoli as the only unseeded title winners at Charleston and is also the third straight unseeded player to win a Tier I title this year. Countrywoman Kim Clijsters was unseeded in her recent title runs at Indian Wells and Miami.
The former world No.1 started off her week at Charleston with a three-set victory against No.10 seed Jelena Jankovic. From there, she also needed three sets to defeat Shuai Peng before reaching the quarterfinals with a straight sets win against Iveta Benesova.
A much-anticipated matchup against world No.1 Lindsay Davenport was unable to be fully-completed as Davenport was forced to withdrawal at the start of the third set with a right hip flexor strain.
Henin-Hardenne then managed to move into the championship match by holding off No.13 seed Tatiana Golovin in the semifinals.
After looking invincible in the early stages of 2004, Henin-Hardenne spent much of the year's final eight months battling the effects of cytomegalovirus. She made a remarkable return to tennis in August to win an Olympic Gold medal for Belgium in Athens. Then, after a fourth round loss at the US Open, Henin-Hardenne decided to spend the rest of 2004 recovering from the viral illness.
A right knee injury suffered during a practice session in late December delayed the start of her season before she finally took the court at Miami where she won four matches before a three-set loss to Maria Sharapova in the quarters.
Dementieva, the runner-up last year on the red clay at Roland Garros, said she had her chances in the match and despite the loss, is pleased with her first clay tournament of the year.
"I think it was a great match," Dementieva said. "I think it was pretty close. I could win, but I just missed some opportunities in the first set when I was 5-3 up, and I just didn't take risks."
In doubles, the No.2 seeded tandem of Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual won their first title as a team, defeating unseeded Czech duo Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke, 61 64.
Ruano Pascual takes one half of the doubles title for the third consecutive year. She won the title in 2003 and 2004 with Paola Suarez. The victory marks the 32nd title of her career and is only the 4th career title she has won with a partner other than Suarez.
Martinez wins her 12th career doubles title and first since winning Dubai in 2004.
Benesova and Peschke were playing together in their second final of 2005 after already winning a title at Paris [Indoors]. Peschke also reached the Amelia Island final the previous week while playing alongside Patty Schnyder.