Serena Williams Wins Australian Open

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Once again, Serena Williams is the queen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. By defeating Justine Henin, the formidable Belgian comeback kid, in three sets 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, Williams claimed her fifth Australian open single title and her 12th championship at a major grand slam tournament. On Friday, less than 24 hours earlier, Serena and Venus Williams clinched the doubles title, defeating top-seeded doubles specialists Cara Black (Zimbabwe) and Liezel Huber (U.S.) handily 6-4, 6-3.

The women's final was riveting, with two seasoned champions and wily competitors slugging it out, doggedly, playing generally at a very high level, and the momentum shifting. The 27-year-old Henin has a resume comparable to that of 28-year-old Williams, with seven grand slam wins, including a win in Australia in 2004.

Both players looked uncomfortable and displayed grim determination and few smiles throughout the joyless but fascinating two hour, seven minute contest. Neither player connected with the crowd. Although the final score does not look all that close, in fact Henin scored just five fewer points throughout the match. This reflects Williams' success at digging deep to win key points at critical junctures throughout the match—a hallmark of her tennis career.

This was the physically slight and non-flashy Henin's 11th match since returning from a one-season layoff (a brief retirement), during which she worked systematically to make changes in her technique and strategy. Expert commentators, such as Mary Joe Fernandez on the Tennis Channel, noted that she was moving in to the net frequently, even when that might not have been the ideal response in all instances. She also had difficulties with her serve, racking up six double faults and a low 50 percent first serve percentage

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Henin and Serena meet in Australian Open final

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The tenacious Henin is playing her first Grand Slam since coming out of an 18-month retirement and kept her historic run going with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of unseeded Chinese Zheng Jie.

Williams also had to negotiate Chinese opposition and was made to work hard by 16th seed Li Na before grinding her down 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1) under a hot sun on the Rod Laver Arena to set up an enticing decider on Saturday.

Ever since she announced her return to tennis the talk has been about whether Henin could emulate Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, who won last year's US Open on her own comeback. And the former world number one has lived up to expectations after being handed a wildcard by organizers. She destroyed Zheng as she stayed on track to add to her seven Grand Slam titles, including the 2004 Australian Open.

"The dream continues. I am going to play the number one and defending champion," said the 27-year-old, who became the first wildcard to reach the final here. "I wasn't sure about what I would feel on the court and how things would go. I have just enjoyed my tennis and taken it step by step. I can't wait for the final now, it is an amazing feeling."

Asked if she seriously expected to get this far, she revealed she was quietly confident, having booked a flight out for next Sunday before the start of the tournament. "I was curious about how things would go and I'm very happy to come back like this," she said.

Henin has negotiated some tough opposition to get this far, including fifth seed Elena Dementieva, 19th seed Nadia Petrova and talented Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.But the biggest test of her comeback will come in the form of Williams, who is angling for a 12th Grand Slam title to put her alongside Billie Jean King. 

She saw off Li in just over two hours, with the rising Chinese star saving four match points before a delighted Williams clinched the win with an ace. "I am happy I was able to pull it out, it was really close," said Williams. "I wasn't at my best today, but I'm still here which is shocking and I'm just going to do whatever I can to stay."

The world number one, who came back from the brink of defeat in a gruelling quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka, is also hoping to become the first player to successfully defend her title since American Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

But Williams was made to fight hard against a determined Li, who was not overawed playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final. She pushed Williams all the way and learned a lot from playing such a high-profile game.

"I lost the match and I was a little bit sad to be stopped in the semi-final, but I played good tennis today," said Li. "I think that I have to practice much, much more, particularly my serve."

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