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Henin Tries to End Spat with Clijsters

LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) - U.S. and French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne has tried to resolve her long-running dispute with world No. 1 Kim Clijsters.

The two Belgians have clashed repeatedly on and off court over the year with Henin twice getting the better of Clijsters in grand slam finals in June in Paris and earlier this month in New York.

Clijsters has accused Henin of gamesmanship and her father also wondered about the dramatic physical improvement of his daughter's big rival.

But at the Leipzig Grand Prix in Germany Tuesday, Henin, who aims to become world No. 1 by the end of October, said she forgave Clijsters.

"I was a little disappointed with some of the things which she said and I think everyone can understand that," Henin told reporters. "But I think she was probably disappointed after losing to me and I understand that."

"Everyone has to understand that there is a lot of pressure on both of us and it's not always easy to deal with the situation."

UNFAIR ADVANTAGE

Clijsters had intimated that Henin gained an unfair advantage by taking an injury break to have blisters taped -- thus giving herself a breather -- while beating her in the final of the Accura Classic in San Diego last month.

The Flemish-speaking Belgian said that Henin "suddenly started running like a demon" after receiving treatment and that she (Henin) "sometimes did this in matches."

Henin was nevertheless keen to forget their differences on Tuesday. "I have no problems with what has happened in the past. I said everything I wanted to say and Kim deserves to be number one.

"We are mature enough to go on court or on tour together and say it's in the past and we will do that.

"We will have to travel a lot together and it's better to have a good relationship. I want to concentrate on what I want to do."

Clijsters's father Leo also appeared to hint in Belgian news reports after Henin's U.S. Open win that her improvement in physique had not been naturally acquired. Some papers suggested he was hinting at drugs-use but Clijsters has since denied this.

The 21-year-old Henin, who Monday drove from her new apartment near Marloie in Belgium to take part in Leipzig, has been receiving treatment on a bad back and a knee problem which has been troubling her since her New York triumph.
 

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Henin-Hardenne focused on No. 1, not doping claims

BY DAVID HEIN
Associated Press
Sep. 23, 2003 5:51 p.m.

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP)— French and U.S. Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne said Tuesday she has put accusations of doping behind her and is eying the world No. 1 ranking.

Henin-Hardenne expressed her disappointment with comments that came from the camp of fellow Belgian and world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, insinuating that she may be taking doping performance-boosting substances.

"It was crazy for sure. But you can't stop people from talking about things," said Henin-Hardenne, who is playing at the Sparkassen Cup, her first tournament since winning the U.S. Open two weeks ago.

After Henin-Hardenne beat Clijsters in the U.S. Open final, Clijsters' father Leo speculated in the local Belgian media about Henin-Hardenne's apparent weight and muscle gain.

Former French Open semifinalists Filip De Wulf, now a journalist, accused the 21-year-old Henin-Hardenne of using performance-enhancing drugs. He retracted the claim afterward in an apologetic letter to the double grand slam winner printed in the Belgian media.

Wim Vandeven, the physical trainer for Belgian player Els Callens, also questioned Henin-Hardenne's muscle development since working with new trainer Pat Etcheberry.

"My only doping is work," Henin-Hardenne said upon her return to Belgium from her latest grand slam triumph.

Clijsters, who has been her rival since they played youth tournaments, is also entered in the Sparkassen Cup. She blamed the ruckus on the media.

"The Belgium media doesn't know enough about tennis to make comments," Clijsters said. "They want to create gossip in magazines like they do in the United States. But Belgium is too small for that."

Clijsters' loss to Henin-Hardenne was the second straight in a grand slam final after the French, heating up the rivalry between the two players.

"There's a lot of pressure on us (from Belgium) and it's not always easy to deal with it for either camp," Henin-Hardenne said. "I have no more problems with what happened in the past. I said what I needed to. I just want to forget about everything else."

Henin-Hardenne said two weeks vacation in Belgium helped a beat-up body, with a hurting knee and ongoing treatment for her back.

"It's been a tough summer. I need some time to recover," she said. "The most important thing for me is to be ready for 2004."

Henin-Hardenne is closing in on Clijsters' top ranking and could overtake her by early October at the Filderstadt tournament.

"It's a goal for sure, but it's not the end of the world. If I get it by the end of the year, it would be great," she said. "But I'm patient. Next year would be great too."

Henin-Hardenne reached the Sparkassen Cup semifinals last year. She starts play in the second round on Wednesday or Thursday against Czech player Denisa Chladkova.
 
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