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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Henin prevails in Belgian battle
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Justine Henin-Hardenne
Henin-Hardenne is looking to complete a full set of Grand Slams
Justine Henin-Hardenne marched into the Wimbledon final with a straight-sets victory over Kim Clijsters.

World number two Clijsters had the edge in the all-Belgian clash early on and broke serve to take a 4-3 lead but the French Open champion roared back.

Clijsters twice led by a break in the second set but once again, she was unable to hold on under pressure.

Third seed Henin-Hardenne came through 6-4 7-6 (7-4), her third win in a row over her compatriot.

Victory in Saturday's final against Amelie Mauresmo would make Henin-Hardenne the 10th woman in history to complete a career Grand Slam.

The 24-year-old has won 17 straight matches, including titles at Roland Garros and Eastbourne.

"It was tough today," she told BBC Sport. "I was nervous but I played well on the important points.

I'm disappointed I lost but I'm still happy with the way I played

Kim Clijsters

"She broke me a couple of times but I was always able to come back and I played solidly in the tiebreak.

"I love these situations, when there's a lot of tension and pressure. It's why I play tennis."

Clijsters felt she could not have given any more in her attempt to reach the Wimbledon final for the first time.

"I'm disappointed I lost but I'm still happy with the way I played," she said.

"I went for the lines and I gave her my best tennis. When I've lost to her in Grand Slams before, I was disappointed I wasn't at my best but not this time."

Clijsters dominated the early baseline exchanges and duly broke to lead 4-3.

But the US Open champion, often accused of being too nice for competitive sport, faltered.

That allowed Henin-Hardenne to make several successful incursions to the net and the third seed won three straight games in a row and the last six points to clinch the set.

The match, which had been an error-strewn affair, warmed up at the end of the second set.

Clijsters had already squandered the advantage once when she broke again to lead 6-5 with some brutal hitting from the baseline.

This time, she did little wrong in the next game but Henin-Hardenne produced some dazzling winners to take the set into a tie-break.

Henin-Hardenne, who has five Grand Slam titles to Clijsters' lone US Open triumph, showed her mettle.

Stepping into her returns, she forced errors from her opponent and she clinched the match with a dazzling backhand pass.



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