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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 November 2007, 18:34 GMT
Superb Henin retains Madrid title
By Piers Newbery

Justine Henin
Henin ends 2007 with 10 titles and unbeaten in 25 matches
Justine Henin completed a magnificent season with an epic victory over Maria Sharapova in the final of the Sony Ericsson Championships in Madrid.

The Belgian won 5-7 7-5 6-3 in three hours 25 minutes to retain her title.

She saved seven set points before losing the opener but edged the second and was the stronger in the decider.

Henin equals Steffi Graf's 25-match unbeaten run of 1989 and becomes the first player to win 10 titles in a season since Martina Hingis in 1997.

She is also the first woman ever to win over US$5m in one year.

"I think I can still improve a lot, in my attitude especially," said the 25-year-old champion.

"I wouldn't say I played my best tennis, I was just fighting a lot. I played with my heart and it was great because that brings a lot of emotions.

"But I have to keep improving my aggressive game, moving forward and taking my opportunities."

With Sharapova still on her way back from a shoulder injury, the Belgian went into the final as a strong favourite.

But Sharapova had surprised everyone with her form in Madrid and her ever-present battling qualities were soon in evidence as she recovered from an early break in game four.

606: DEBATE
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A break point went begging for Sharapova in game eight but the first real drama came with Henin serving at 5-6.

The Belgian was edgy and in a pulsating game hit four double-faults and saved seven set points before finally cracking, sending a forehand flying into the stands off the frame.

Sharapova screamed in delight but was quickly back to business, regaining her focus to fight off three break points in an equally intense game at the start of the second set.

Henin's own serve was faltering but she got the first breakthrough of the second set at 4-4, only for Sharapova to hit straight back and level for 5-5.

With both players tiring another two break points came and went for Henin in game 11 before she forced an error on the third, and then served out to love to level the match.

Now the momentum was well and truly with the champion and she broke in game three of the decider, but still had to fend off three break points from the willing but exhausted Sharapova in the next.

When Sharapova then took a medical timeout for breathing difficulties the end appeared in sight but an incredible match had another twist as the Russian came out and broke back.

At 3-3 in the deciding set, and with fatigue and nerves threatening to overcome both players, Henin landed the telling blow with a break when Sharapova double-faulted.

The world number one then had to survive yet another nerve-shredding game before converting her fifth match point to ensure she went undefeated from Wimbledon until the end of the year.

  • Cara Black and Liezel Huber won their ninth title of the year when they beat Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama 5-7 6-3 10-8 in the doubles final.

  • SEE ALSO
    Henin v Sharapova photos
    11 Nov 07 |  Tennis
    Justine Henin's tactics
    22 Aug 06 |  Skills
    Sharapova eases to Ivanovic win
    09 Nov 07 |  Tennis


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