Henin "I'm still not 100%"
Henin-Hardenne moves into semifinals
LOS ANGELES -- Showing no obvious signs of ailing health, Justine Henin-Hardenne regained the No. 1 ranking with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jennifer Capriati in the WTA Championships on Friday night.
Henin-Hardenne also guaranteed herself a spot in the semifinals of the season-ending championships. She has a 2-0 record in round-robin play and has dropped just one set in the Black group.
Defending champion Kim Clijsters defeated Amelie Mauresmo 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to improve to 3-0 in the Red group and claim a semifinal spot. She has dropped just one set so far.
"These are the type of matches that make you enjoy tennis so much more,'' Clijsters said. "We got the best out of each other. The crowd was really into it. To see a fuller stadium than we've had here yet is just great.''
The top two players in the Black and Red groups advance to the semifinals.
Henin-Hardenne spent a week at No. 1 for the first time in mid-October, taking the top spot from Belgian countrywoman Clijsters, who regained it the following week. Clijsters began this week with a slim 135-point lead over Henin-Hardenne, who will end the year on top when the final rankings are released Monday.
"It's just a great feeling,'' said Henin-Hardenne, who also won the French and U.S. opens. "I'm very happy because the season has been great. I did everything almost perfect.''
Clijsters was typically gracious about being replaced at No. 1 by a woman who is hyped as her biggest rival.
"She's played really well and she definitely deserves it,'' she said. "I'm not disappointed about it at all because I'm enjoying this moment so much, winning this match.''
Henin-Hardenne's match lacked any of the drama created by her and Capriati during their memorable U.S. Open semifinal in September, when Capriati was two points from winning 10 times before Henin-Hardenne won 7-6 in the third set.
This time, Henin-Hardenne raced to a 5-2 lead and served out the first set by dropping one point in the final game.
"I knew before the match that if I won I was going to be qualified for the semis and No. 1 in the world. It gave me so much determination,'' she said. "I was coming on the court so focused.''
The night before, Henin-Hardenne needed her blood pressure and heart rate checked during a three-set victory over Anastasia Myskina that ended just before midnight. She had a headache, a fever and sore throat.
"I'm still not 100 percent,'' she said. "But when you're playing more relaxed it helps you. There weren't too many rallies. Yesterday I had to run all over the court and I was very nervous so it wasn't easy to breathe, but today I was calm and I wasn't afraid.''
Capriati took a three-minute medical time-out before the second set began, leaving the court to have a wrap removed because it was rubbing on her thighs. She was bothered by a strained hip flexor that impeded her running ability.
"I just didn't really feel I could go all out. That, in combination with her playing well, it's a tough combination,'' said Capriati, adding that the pain crept into her back. "It was kind of always in my mind.''
Henin-Hardenne broke Capriati three times in the second set, using drop shots that Capriati couldn't get to. Capriati ended the 59-minute match with two consecutive backhand errors.
"I've never seen anybody recover as fast as she does,'' said Capriati, whose doubt was obvious in her voice. "She plays pretty good for all these things that's bothering her.''
Henin-Hardenne surprised herself with her results this year, including eight titles and semifinal or better showings at 17 of 18 WTA Tour events.
"I know the reasons and the first reason is working hard and feeling good personally,'' she said.
Mauresmo completed round-robin play with a 1-2 record in the Red group. Her fate depends on the outcome of Saturday's match between Chanda Rubin and Elena Dementieva.
Myskina rallied from two breaks down and a 4-1 deficit in the first set to beat Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-3. She will complete round-robin play against Capriati on Saturday, with the winner earning a semifinal berth.
Myskina evened her record at 1-1 in the Black group, which includes Henin-Hardenne and Capriati.
Sugiyama fell to 0-2 and won't qualify for the semifinals in her first singles appearance in the championships. She hasn't won a set in either of her matches. She and Clijsters are partners in doubles, which begin Sunday.
Myskina was coming off a grueling 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 loss to Henin-Hardenne the previous night. She led in each set, including 5-0 in the first, only to lose after 2½ hours.
"I didn't sleep well. I closed my eyes and I was still playing tennis,'' she said. "I was so mad and upset, I was crying for a couple of hours. I was thinking how stupid I can be to lose a set after being up 5-0.''
The announced attendance of 8,406 was the highest in three nights of the six-day tournament.