Venus Rallies Past Henin to
Win Bausch & Lomb Title
By FRED GOODALL
.c The Associated Press
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (April 14) -- Experience has been Venus Williams' best teacher.
A slow start Sunday in the final of the Bausch & Lomb Championships didn't faze Williams. It only made her more determined to rally and beat Justine Henin for her fourth title this year.
"Back in the day, I lost a lot of matches like these,'' Williams said after overcoming fatigue and 60 unforced errors to win the $585,000 clay-court event 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).
"I guess about two years ago it came to a point where I was tired of losing. I was tired of heartbreak,'' Williams added. "I was tired, not that I didn't deserve it, of watching other people win when I was at the finish line.''
Williams was down a set and four games before working her way back into the match. Twice, she was within two points of losing, but found a way to keep going in the heat.
The title was her 16th in the past three seasons, and 25th overall, boosting her career earnings past $9.8 million.
"I just wanted it to look presentable. I didn't want to lose 6-2, 6-0,'' said Williams, who also rebounded from a slow start to beat Anne Kremer in the semifinals. "I got a game, then I got another. I kept telling myself I wasn't losing today.''
An exhausted Henin, playing her third match in 24 hours, served twice for the championship. But she couldn't hold a 5-4 lead in the second set, then faltered again when she had a chance to close after going up 5-3 in the third.
"I'm a little disappointed, but that's tennis,'' Henin said. "I'm only 19. I got nervous trying to finish the match. I have to work on that.''
Williams won five consecutive points to go up 6-1 in the third-set tiebreaker. The second-seeded Henin fought off match point four times before smashing a forehand into the net to end the 2-hour, 24-minute match.
It was Henin's third loss to Williams in a final this year.
"She was impressive,'' said Henin, ranked ninth in the world. "She's a tough player, a great champion, and I have a lot of respect for her.''
Williams has won 16 of the last 17 finals she's played. She's 5-1 lifetime against Henin, whose only victory against Williams came in the only other match they played on clay.
That win in the round of 16 at the 2001 German Open, as well as a three-set loss on carpet in this year's Diamond Championships final, gave Henin confidence that she could pull an upset Sunday.
She broke Williams' serve five consecutive times on the way to winning the first set and building the 4-0 lead in the second. But even though Williams had dropped eight consecutive games at point, the top seed remained confident she would win if she could extend the match to a third set.
"I always believed that I could somehow pull it out, but it was really bleak. The way she was playing, I just wasn't sure I could do anything about (losing) at that point,'' she said.
Williams improved her record to 26-3 this year, and the $93,000 winner's check boosted her 2002 earnings to $501,673. She's 4-0 lifetime in finals against Henin, including a three-set victory at Wimbledon last year.
Williams also beat Henin to win the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships in January.
04/14/02 18:42 EDT
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