x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Henin puts all doubts to rest

The Belgian comeback queen and wildcard accounts for the fifth seed Elena Dementieva on a smooth day except for a minor stumble for world No 2 Dinara Safina.

Elena Dementieva stretches for a return to Justine Henin during the women's singles match in Melbourne.
Elena Dementieva stretches for a return to Justine Henin during the women's singles match in Melbourne.

The former Australian Open champion Justin Henin's comeback continued with a 7-5, 7-6 win over Elena Dementieva yesterday, her most impressive performance since coming out of retirement earlier this month. Henin, who won at Melbourne Park in 2004, showed she was back to her ominous best and sent a message to her rivals she is a serious contender for this year's women's title. "It was a special night, that's why I probably came back on the tour, to live these kind of matches," she said. "I think I'm already at an amazing level for someone who has not played for 18 months and the draw was pretty tough. "But it's the kind of thing I need for my confidence." The Belgian broke the deadlock by breaking her opponent's serve at 5-5 in the first set before converting her third set point to take the lead.

Henin met with stiffer resistance in the second set as Dementieva, the No 5 seed, broke Henin's serve with the Belgian serving for the match at 6-5. Despite saving a set point in the tie-break, the Russian netted a drop-shot to take it to match point, allowing Henin to seal her progress to the next round with a volley, and the former world No1 will take some beating if she continues to play like this. "She's a great player. Playing against her, you really can learn a lot and improve your game," said Dementieva. "I really need these kind of players to increase the level of my game. So it's great to have her back here on the tour." Henin meets another Russian next when she faces the 27th seed Alisa Kleybanova. Fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters joins her in the third round after a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Tamarine Tanasugarn. Clijsters acknowledged she had come through a tough test against the No 15 seed.

"I haven't played her for a few years. I was actually surprised to see she was still playing," Clijsters said of the Thai. "But she's very tricky. She doesn't give you anything where you can just step in and hit a lot of winners or really go for a lot." The former Australian Open finalist found herself a break down at 3-1 in the second set but fought back, producing some powerful winners from the back of the court and now faces Nadia Petrova of Russia. "Usually with tall girls, they're not the greatest movers around," said Clijsters of the 1.78 metre-tall Petrova. "That's something that I'm definitely going to try to take advantage of." The second seed Dinara Safina also moved into the third round with a straight-sets win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic. Last year's beaten finalist had little difficulty recording a 6-3, 6-4 victory after a typically powerful performance. The Russian broke serve twice during the match, with a forehand winner at 4-3 in the first set and then early on in the second before wrapping up proceedings in 93 minutes. She now takes on Elena Batalcha of Britain for a place in the fourth round. Another Russian, Svetlana Kuznetsova, was equally impressive with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The French Open champion dropped her opening service game but never looked like losing from then on. Kuznetsova eased any worries over her form with a confident display with the only concern being a poor first serve percentage in the first set but remains course to face Clijsters in the fourth round. sports@thenational.ae Abu Dhabi Sports 2 from 4am

"I don't do it for entertainment. I do it because I strongly believe what I feel," Roddick later explained. "I think if I believe in something strongly enough, I'm pretty outspoken about it." Murray was better behaved but unhappy with himself after struggling with his serve in the windy conditions on Margaret Court Arena during his 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory over France's Marc Gicquel. "This is the highest level of the sport. That's going to happen," he said. * Reuters

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