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tennisIlove09
May 12th, 2003, 08:02 AM
Brilliant Belgian: Henin-Hardenne Conquers Clijsters To Win German Open
By Richard Pagliaro, Tennis Week Writer
Special to WTAFANS.COM


Justine Henin-Hardenne, right, kisses her fellow Belgian player Kim Clijsters, left, after she won the final match of the MasterCard German Open women's tennis tournament in Berlin on Sunday, May 11, 2003. Henin-Hardenne defeated Clijsters, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
The bent brim of the baseball cap was soaked with sweat and pulled
down so low you could barely detect the focused face of Justine
Henin-Hardenne beneath it.

Facing three match points at 4-5 in the decisive set of today's
German Open final, Henin-Hardenne was staring down the prospect of her
fourth straight setback to top-seeded Kim Clijsters.

It was then that the defending champion tugged the tip of her cap
even lower. With her eyes nearly obscured, Henin-Hardenne proceeded to
make her most eye-opening comeback of the season.

Serving a pair of aces then watching as Clijsters' volley into the
open court barely missed the mark, Henin-Hardenne held serve to even the
set at 5-5, broke in the ensuing game then served out a dramatic 6-4,
4-6, 7-5, victory over Clijsters in an enthralling German Open final
that featured some sensational shot making and spirited play from both
players.

It was the second straight German Open championship for
Henin-Hardenne, who held off Serena Williams, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5) in the
2002 final.

"It was an incredible week for me," said Henin-Hardenne, who earned
her third tournament title of the year after claiming the Dubai Tennis
Championships and the Family Circle Cup. "I just kept fighting; point
after point, and now I've won it. Playing Kim is always special but this
was really great."

It was a vital win for the fourth-ranked Henin-Hardenne, whose
recent efforts to conquer Clijsters had been as successful as Lindsay
Davenport defeating any of the Seven Dwarfs in a limbo contest.

"It's unbelievable, for sure, with the match points,'' said
Henin-Hardenne, who withdrew from this week's Rome event citing a
strained leg after her Berlin triumph. "I just said you have to play
your best tennis now. You have nothing to lose."

Midway through the second set, Henin-Hardenne appeared to be en
route to a relatively routine win. Holding a commanding 6-4, 4-1 lead,
the 2001 Wimbledon runner-up abruptly lost her rhythm, range and lead as
the competitive Clijsters stormed back to win 16 straight points to
seize the second set, 6-4.

The blown lead was reminiscent of another clay-court clash between
the compatriots. Henin-Hardenne held a 6-2, 4-2 lead in the 2001 Roland
Garros semifinals and was two games from her first career Grand Slam
final when she tightened up and Clijsters came back to win.

Today, Clijsters, who regained the No. 2 spot in the WTA Tour
rankings by reaching the final, was on the verge of yet another comeback
before her Fed Cup teammate dug down deep to grind out a gritty triumph
on the red clay of Berlin.

"This is what you play tennis for," said Clijsters. "I lost but I
enjoyed myself, really."

In becoming the first woman to win consecutive German Open titles
since Steffi Graf did it in 1991-92, Henin-Hardenne solidified her
status as a top contender to challenge Serena Williams for the Roland
Garros crown. She won the two hour, 15-minute match and lasting respect
from Clijsters in the process.

"I think she's the best clay-court player out there,'' Clijsters
said.

The baseball cap hides Henin-Hardenne's head, but can't conceal the
fact the she is much more mentally tough today than she has been in
recent years when she could unravel under pressure faster than the face
of a racquet loses tension when a string breaks.

It was a troubling trend exacerbated by the fact that the 5-foot-5
Belgian put so much of her heart into her play only to cause heartburn
in her avid fans who watched the 2001 Wimbledon runner-up struggle to
close out meaningful matches.

This season, Henin-Hardenne has found closure on the court. She showed
toughness and tenacity in outlasting Lindsay Davenport, 7-5, 5-7, 9-7 at
the Australian Open where she reached the semis before falling to Venus
Williams.

She followed that performance with an excellent effort at the Dubai Duty
Free Open. The Belgian's big-point brilliance saw her extinguish a match
point to edge Monica Seles 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 and earn her seventh career
championship. The victory came a day after Henin-Hardenne outlasted
third-seeded Jennifer Capriati 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in a two-hour, 25-minute
baseline battle.

Last month, Henin-Hardenne brought out her best against the best player
in the world in Charleston. Trailing 0-3 in the first set of the Family
Circle Cup final, Henin-Hardenne arose from the courtside couch, tossed
her towel down and proceeded to produce some spectacular tennis to score
a 6-3, 6-4 victory and snap Serena Williams' 21-match winning streak.

Citing her marriage to Pierre-Yves Hardenne as a life-altering event
that has provided stability to her both on and off the court,
Henin-Hardenne remains a beaming bride who sounds downright delighted
with life on and off the court."

"My marriage changes a lot of things in my life," Henin-Hardenne said.
"I feel more confident and so happy to have a family now."

The marriage produced another profound partnership as Hardenne took over
as his wife's new manager last week.

The fourth-ranked Henin-Hardenne has played with the confidence and
composure that could elude her in meaningful moments in the past.

"I'm feeling much better mentally," Henin-Hardenne said. "I know what I
want and I just want to be focused on my goal. I try to stay focused and
forget the pressure, sometimes it's hard, but I have to deal with that
and I do it much better now."

The baseball cap can't conceal the fact that Henin-Hardenne will arrive
in Paris as a top contender for the Roland Garros crown.

gladysharon
May 12th, 2003, 09:31 AM
This is a great article tennisIlove09!! :D

Mercury Rising
May 12th, 2003, 10:09 AM
In becoming the first woman to win consecutive German Open titles
since Steffi Graf did it in 1991-92, Henin-Hardenne solidified her
status as a top contender to challenge Serena Williams for the Roland
Garros crown.
Is this true, my paper today sais it was 93-94?

Great article btw :D

wta_forever
May 12th, 2003, 11:47 AM
Thanks for posting

Mercury Rising
May 12th, 2003, 12:14 PM
Posted on 5/11/2003 at 4:05 PM


JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE WITHDRAWS FROM
TELECOM ITALIA MASTERS

World No.4 Justine Henin-Hardenne has withdrawn from the US$1.3 million Telecom Italia Masters (12-18 May) due to left knee tendonitis.

Henin-Hardenne, runner-up here in 2002 and due to be seeded No.3 in Rome this year behind Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, developed the injury during her 64 46 75 victory over Clijsters in Sunday's MasterCard German Open final, during which she saved three match points.

"I'm very disappointed to have to miss the Italian Open this year," said Henin-Hardenne. "I played very well there last year and really enjoyed myself in Rome. Unfortunately today's match against Kim in Berlin was very tough and intense physically. My knee got worse as the match went on and right now the advice I have received is to take a rest to ensure I will be fully fit for the French Open, which starts in two weeks' time."

Henin-Hardenne became the only the second woman ever to defend a German Open title Sunday (after Steffi Graf in 1987-89 and 1992-94) and was runner-up in Rome in 2002 to Serena Williams, falling 76(6) 64.

Henin-Hardenne's position in the draw is filled by Patty Schnyder, who now becomes the No.17 seed. There are no further adjustments to the draw since the schedule for Monday had already been released. A lucky loser now gains entry into the main draw, once the lucky loser sign-in closes at 12.30pm Tuesday.