x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Justine Henin survives scare from Sania Mirza

The 2004 champion loses the first set in Melbourne, but rallies to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 first-round victory.

Justine Henin returns during her first-round match against Sania Mirza.
Justine Henin returns during her first-round match against Sania Mirza.

 

MELBOURNE // Justine Henin, the former Australian Open champion, was given a first-round scare by India's Sania Mirza on day one of play at Melbourne Park.

The Belgian dropped the opening set but improved to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and set up a second-round clash with the Briton Elena Baltacha.

Henin had her serve broken four times in the opening set, a worrying sign for the 2004 winner ahead of bigger challenges later in the tournament.

But the 11th seed then began to play more in keeping with her status, and was far too strong for qualifier Mirza in a swift final set.

The former world No 1 missed six months with an elbow injury after Wimbledon, returning only for the start of this year, and has admitted she will need several matches before she feels attuned to the demands of the highest level.

She did not discount her chances of success in Melbourne heading into this tournament, but Mirza threatened to expose Henin's limited recent match experience as she swept into a shock lead.

Last year saw Henin, in her first grand slam since coming out of retirement, lose to Serena Williams in the final.

Another appearance in the final looked unlikely as Henin struggled to get on top of an opponent ranked 145 in the world, but she raised her performance when it mattered to level the match, before swatting Mirza aside in the 28-minute decider.

In the men's draw, third-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in an emphatic start to his Australian Open campaign.

Djokovic, the 2008 champion, had too much consistency for the 42nd-ranked Granollers and dropped his serve only once in the 91-minute match.

Granollers, who rallied from two sets down here last year to beat then No 8-seed Robin Soderling in five sets in a first-round upset victory, was rarely in the contest against Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic won all his Davis Cup singles matches last year and helped Serbia to their first ever title in the men's international team competition.

"I definitely ended the 2010 season in great style. Winning the Davis Cup for the first time for our country was a historic win and it gave me a lot of confidence for the start of 2011," he said. "And of course just coming back to this court brings back great memories. It's the only grand slam that I've won, so it is great to be here playing well."