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Henin to meet Mauresmo in final Sportsdesk | August 21, 2004 00:55 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2004 04:04 IST

Former French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium entered the final of the women's singles tennis event at the Athens Olympics on Friday evening.

The top-seeded Henin-Hardenne beat third seeded Russian Anastasia Myskina, the current French Open champion, 7-5, 5-7, 8-6 in a hard-fought semi-final on centre court at the Olympic Tennis Center.

She will meet Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, who beat unseeded Australian Alicia Molik 7-6, 6-3 in the other semi-final.

Both women struggled to hold serve in a match that saw a total of 17 breaks and lasted 2 hours 44 minutes.

Myskina began well, holding her serve and breaking Henin-Hardenne to race to a 2-0 lead. But the Belgian broke right back to put the set on even terms.

She broke her 23-year-old rival again in the seventh game to move a break up, only to be broken in the very next game.

But Henin-Hardenne converted her 11th break point in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead and then held serve to close out the set in 55 minutes.

At this stage the former world number 1 seemed to be on song, breaking Myskina again in the opening game of the second set and holding serve to go 2-0 up.

But the Russian was not going to give in so easily. The next five games went with serve, and Myskina eventually broke through in the eighth to draw level.

At this point the women traded breaks like they were going out of fashion. Henin-Hardenne broke right back to put herself in front, but Myskina levelled for the second time in the next game, the tenth.

She then held serve and broke her rival for the third time in the set to tie the match 1-1. The second set lasted 49 minutes.

At this stage it looked as if the Russian was well and truly on top. She was broken in the first game of the second set, but she broke Henin-Hardenne in the second, fourth, and sixth games to take what looked like an unbeatable 5-1 lead. All she needed to do at this stage was hold her serve.

But that would have gone against the grain in this match. Henin-Hardenne, who returned from injury early only because she did not want to miss out on the Olympics, broke Myskina in the seventh and ninth games to level the set at 5-all.

At 6-all, she broke her teenaged rival once more to set the match up nicely. All she had to do now was hold serve and fulfil her dream of entering the final. And that was exactly what she did, bringing her experience into play to ensure against any more hiccups. The third set lasted exactly an hour.

In the second semi-final, second seeded Mauresmo kept her date with the final beating her Australian rival 7-6 (10-8), 6-3.

Mauresmo had to fight hard to win the first set, which went to the tie-breaker and took an hour and eight minutes. But once she was over the hump, she took the second at a canter in 37 minutes.

Both players served poorly in the first set, with Mauresmo facing nine break points on her serve and Molik six, with each converting two.

Molik drew first blood in the fourth game to go 3-1, but Mauresmo broke right back to put the set on level terms.

Mauresmo then broke Molik in the ninth game, only to drop her serve in the very next one. There was not much drama thereafter and the set went to the tie-breaker where Mauresmo won 10-8.

The first set, which lasted an hour and eight minutes, seemed to have sapped the Australian, who failed to put up much of a fight in the second set. She never got close to breaking Mauresmo, but the Frenchwoman got four opportunities and converted one, in the eighth game, to take the set 6-3 without much ado.

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