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Henin-Hardenne could take second Slam of the year
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com


NEW YORK -- She is the French Open champion and, in the minds of astute observers, the true favorite here at the U.S. Open. And yet, even in the absence of Serena and Venus Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne has been flying a little below the radar.




Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Silvija Talaja in straight sets on Thursday.


"No," Henin-Hardenne said, "I'm not the biggest favorite here, for sure."


The lack of attention -- or is it merely her perception? -- plays nicely into Henin-Hardenne's world view, which is "Justine against the World." For sure.


True, she has overcome personal adversity in her life and her triumph in Paris was an uplifting tribute to the power of positive thinking. And, yes, at 5-foot-5, 125 pounds she is smaller than most of the elite players. It's just that sometimes she is -- how shall we put this? -- a tad dramatic.


There wasn't even a whiff of drama Thursday when Henin-Hardenne sent home Silvija Talaja of Croatia with a 6-1, 6-2 second-round thrashing. This followed a less-than-impressive first-round victory over qualifier Aniko Kapros.


"I played a very high level of tennis," Henin-Hardenne said. "I played a very good match today -- finally."


Henin-Hardenne, 21, is the No. 3-ranked player in the world and the No. 2 seed here, so it wouldn't stun anyone if she won the tournament in which she has never progressed past the fourth round. At the same time, while the injured Williams sisters have been frolicking in New York City, threatening the stock of Manolo Blahniks at Bergdorf Goodman and appearing on David Letterman, Kim Clijsters has been the Belgian in the media crosshairs.


When Clijsters, 20, supplanted Serena as the WTA Tour's No. 1 player, she officially became the one to beat. The fact that she was the first No. 1 to reach that position without winning a Grand Slam was not given the attention it deserved.


Predictably, Henin-Hardenne did not seem elated with all the attention she and her countrywoman have received.


"I don't have to like it or don't like it," Henin-Hardenne said. "It's like this. I mean, that's the situation right now. I think the Williams sisters dominated so much on the tour. It change a little bit. They're injured, both of them. Kim and me played well in the last few months. It's normal that you talking, you guys, a lot about us. Kim is No. 1, I'm No. 3. I understand."


Understand this: If Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters advance to the finals as expected -- Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport don't appear fit enough to beat them -- it is no guarantee that Clijsters would win. On the contrary, Henin-Hardenne, she of the sublime backhand that is the WTA's version of a Fred Couples swing, has beaten Clijsters in three of their past four matches.


The French Open final approached devastation. It was only Clijsters' second Grand Slam final, along with the 2001 French Open, and she did not meet the moment. Henin-Hardenne, hyper-motivated, won the first set 6-0 and the second, anticlimactically, 6-4. It was an echo of the Australian Open back in January, when Clijsters led Serena 5-1 in the third set of their semifinal match and somehow managed to lose.


Only a title here can make an otherwise brilliant season right, but Clijsters likely will have to go through Henin-Hardenne to get it. A meeting in the final would be their seventh of the season -- and there are still two months left.


With the Williams sisters on the sidelines, a Henin-Hardenne-Clijsters final wouldn't be completely devoid of drama. They played as 10-year-old juniors and a friendship developed, but as the stakes have risen they seem to have grown apart.


In the Aug. 2 final in San Diego, Clijsters won the first set but was left fuming as Henin-Hardenne took an injury timeout, allegedly to attend to blisters. She went on to win the last two sets. Later, Clijsters implied that Henin-Hardenne faked the injury to slow her momentum.


"I'm sort of getting used to it," Clijsters said. "She's done it every match I've played against her. It's a matter of knowing if she's doing it for an injury or for another reason. It didn't look like it was hurting because she was still running."


Henin-Hardenne, incensed, tweaked Clijsters. Before the Open, she reiterated her displeasure with even more pointed remarks.


"I think Kim was really disappointed that she lost and she came in to do press just five minutes after the match," Henin-Hardenne said. "So probably she has some regrets about what she said. I think it was a little bit stupid. I understand that sometimes it's hard to lose, but she has to accept that."


Henin-Hardenne always has been a truth teller, but since her breakthrough win in Paris, she carries her confidence with more conviction.


"I feel my life has changed, for sure, since the French Open," Henin-Hardenne said. "And I understand it perfectly. That's normal. Tennis life, being a professional tennis player, is not only being on the court and hit balls. That's what I prefer, but I have many things around it I have to do. That's my job; it's part of my life.


"The pressure is there all the time."


That familiarity in the crucible of a Grand Slam final could deliver her a second major title.
 

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I hope she doesn't win....

If she does I'll be mad :mad:

I liked her before the French Open but she had to go and cheat.

:mad:

GO ANYBODY WHO CAN BEAT HENIN-HARDENNE
 

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and Alex Stevenson will end the year ranked #1.

:rolleyes:
 

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As much as i don't care for Justine after the French Open, she has been looking better since her first match, whicle Kim has dropped a tiny bit. Justine will be the one to beat at the USO.
 

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Not suprisingly that kind of shitarticle is on ESPN :rolleyes: I swear sometimes those idiots completely get to me. They were whining all through the French Open and they still are.

Justine is a contender for the Open title, one of many. I think she herself is pretty realistic about her chances, knowing she's never reached the quarters here.
 

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i hate the press. so immature. they try to make it sound like Kim and Justine don't get along. kim made some unfair remarks for sure but she was just disappointed and Justine just said that it was a little stupid, that's all!
 

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The author of this article set out to present Justine as a favourite and still suceeds in taking shots at her :rolleyes:
I would love to see Jen or Kim win the title, but something in me enjoys domination (probably that's why i am a williams fan), I would thoroughly enjoy a Justine victory and she is very capable of that too. I am in awe of athletes that step out and stand out. Unlike the ATP, slams are not 'distributed'. A good player takes it all, all the time!
I will probably decide next saturday who to finally get behind 100%.
 
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