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Oct 19th, 2003, 10:38 PM
Henin-Hardenne is new No. 1

By ERICA BULMAN, AP Sports Writer
October 19, 2003

AP - Oct 15, 4:44 pm EDT
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ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- Justine Henin-Hardenne became the No. 1 player in women's tennis after winning the Swisscom Challenge on Sunday with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Jelena Dokic.

Henin-Hardenne will advance from No. 2 and replace Belgian countrywoman Kim Clijsters at the top when the rankings are officially released Monday.

Clijsters, who lost to Dokic in the semifinals, was No. 1 for 10 weeks. The WTA Tour said she will regain the top spot in a week because Henin-Hardenne has withdrawn from an upcoming tournament.

Henin-Hardenne is the 13th woman to be No. 1 since the tour rankings were introduced in 1975.

``It was a dream of mine as a child,'' Henin-Hardenne said before accepting the trophy and standing next to a giant board with No. 1 written in tennis balls. ``I've been playing tennis since I was 5.''

Henin-Hardenne, the champion of the French Open and U.S. Open, won her eighth title of the year.

Henin-Hardenne had a chance to become No. 1 a week ago in Filderstadt, Germany, but lost the final to Clijsters.

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``After match point today I thought 'mission accomplished,''' she said. ``It has given me a lot of motivation and courage to continue. Getting to No. 1 is never easy. But I know staying at the top will be really hard.''

Henin-Hardenne, citing fatigue, withdrew from next week's Generali Open in Austria and will lose computer ranking points after winning that title last year. Clijsters is to play in Luxembourg.

On Sunday, Henin-Hardenne needed just 15 minutes to capture the first set, with Dokic winning just four points.

``I served unbelievably, like never before in my life,'' said Henin-Hardenne, wearing a WTA pink No. 1 T-shirt. ``I was so focused. It was incredible.''

Dokic's ranking slipped from the top 10 to 25th this year. Until this week, the Serbia-Montenegro player hadn't reached a final in 14 months and hadn't won two consecutive matches in three months.

``I'm not always the easiest person to put up with,'' she said. ``I'm very difficult sometimes. It hasn't been an easy time.''

Henin-Hardenne's next goal is the season-ending Tour Championships in November.

``I'll take care of my body the next couple of weeks, play the Championship match by match, try to win the title, and then maybe think of finishing the year as No. 1,'' she said.


Updated on Sunday