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Ivanovic keen to stop Henin
June 08, 2007 14:44 IST
After suffering six months of personal heartache, Justine Henin [Images] plans to douse the youthful exuberance of Serbia's Ana Ivanovic and rekindle an old love affair in the final of the French Open on Saturday.
The Belgian has sought solace on various tennis courts around the world ever since her marriage to Pierre-Yves Hardenne broke down at the turn of the year, and nowhere does she feel more at home than on Philippe Chatrier Court.
It was the stage of her first Grand Slam triumph in 2003, and with further successes in 2005 and 2006, she will be the favourite to overcome a teenager contesting her maiden major final.
"Because I had a difficult beginning of the year, it's a great pleasure for me to be back at this Grand Slam," said Henin, who skipped the Australian Open in January to sort out her personal life.
"It took a bit of time for tennis to come back on the top list of my priorities and then my love for the game came back.
"A Grand Slam final is a very special match and I have far more fun being on the court than in the past. I'm just enjoying every moment of it.
"I'd like to go until the end and to get the reward for all the efforts I've put into this tournament. I love to win here. It's my favourite event."
The world number one has now reached the showpiece match in the last five majors she has competed in.
Although the French Open was the only major she captured in 2006, if she beats Ivanovic she will become only the second woman in the professional era to win a hat-trick of titles at Roland Garros.
Ironically the only other woman to have achieved the feat was Monica Seles [Images], who inspired Ivanovic to pick up a tennis racket.
Seles won the French Open from 1990-92 playing under the Yugoslav flag, but was born a Serb.
"I started playing because of Monica. She was the woman I always looked up to and I always wanted to achieve what she did," said 19-year-old Ivanovic.
Growing up in war-torn Serbia, Ivanovic has come a long way from starting out her training in a drained swimming pool.
"It was tough times, especially 1999 during the bombing. It was really tough. I thought it would be impossible to continue, because we didn't know how long it was going to go on," said Ivanovic, who whipped world number two Maria Sharapova [Images] 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals.
"So it was very tough, and I thought it would be really impossible to succeed."
But as Ivanovic has cleared every treacherous hurdle to get to the final, Henin will not be underestimating the Serbian's challenge.
"She's played an exceptional tournament this year, and she's in great shape. She's very confident. I need to be ready and to play my best level of tennis if I want to win."
The French Open 2007 coverage