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Henin-Hardenne battles to Warsaw title

May 02, 2005 11:14 IST

Former world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne claimed her second successive claycourt title when she defeated US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to win the Warsaw WTA event in Warsaw on Sunday.

The unseeded Belgian, who secured the Family Circle Cup in Charleston a fortnight ago, has now won two of the three events she has played since returning from illness and injury at Key Biscayne in March. Her only loss came against Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals there.

"It's good that I've had a lot of matches. That was the main goal. Now I have a couple of matches on clay, and that gives me a lot of confidence before the French Open," said Henin-Hardenne.

"I still have to work a little bit more on being aggressive. I win, but I think I can still do better, and that's what I have to be focused on.

"It's going to be important to me that I don't get tired like I did in the last few years, so I have to be aggressive so I don't have long rallies like I did today."

The Belgian was forced to dig deep in a contest that stretched to over two hours. Both players struck the ball strongly from the baseline, with Russian Kuznetsova's forehand counteracting Henin-Hardenne's often spectacular backhand.


After exchanging early breaks, Kuznetsova broke to lead 4-2 with a dropshot leaving her opponent stranded on the baseline. That was enough to decide the first set, but it was Henin-Hardenne who earned an advantage in the second.

The Belgian was a little fortunate that a crosscourt forehand from Kuznetsova clipped the net and fell wide to give her a break for 3-1, and Henin-Hardenne then had to fight off a break point in each of her next two service games before breaking again to level.

Kuznetsova broke to lead 2-1 in the third but a rare exchange at the net allowed Henin-Hardenne to level at 4-4 with a backhand volley, and after holding off two break points in the next game the Belgian earned her first match point at 5-4.

Kuznetsova hit a backhand long, but redeemed herself with a big serve to stay in contention. But when Henin-Hardenne earned a second match point at 6-5, a strong service return forced Kuznetsova into a backhand error.

The Russian said a slight left leg injury hampered her movement after the first set.

"I feel disappointed with losing, but I'm happy because I didn't play so well at the start of the season," she said.

"The first set was the best I ever played in this tournament, just unbelievable. I was running down all the balls and serving well.

"But at the end of the set I pulled my leg and I wasn't moving so well in the second set. In the third I was a break up, but then she got used to my serve and I couldn't change it."


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