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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

Justine Henin battles through to Aussie Open quarters

Venue: Melbourne Park Date: 18-31 January
BBC coverage: Every Murray match live on BBC 1 or 2
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Justine Henin celebrates victory
Henin is playing at the Australian Open for the first time since 2008

Former world number one Justine Henin made the last eight of the Australian Open with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-3 ) 1-6 6-3 win over Yanina Wickmayer.

Henin, playing in her second event since coming out of retirement, will now meet Nadia Petrova after her win over third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 2009 finalist and number two seed Dinara Safina pulled out of her fourth-round match because of a back injury.

Her opponent, Maria Kirilenko, will take on Zheng Jie in the last eight.

Safina, who lost to Serena Williams in last year's final, was trailing 4-5 and serving at 30-40 when she limped to her changeover chair before walking up and conceding the match.


A tearful Safina said afterwards she felt her back go after a marathon sixth game that had eight deuces.

The 23-year-old confirmed that it was the same injury that had forced her to miss the season-ending WTA Championships.

"(It feels) exactly the same like in Doha. Exactly the same. I just cannot move anywhere," she said.

"The physio asked me to lie on the table. I said 'I cannot lie'. I cannot make any movement. Whatever I try to move, it hurts terribly."

Henin, playing in her first Grand Slam event following a 20-month retirement, trailed 6-5 in the opening set.

But the seven-time major winner saved three set points to force the tie-break, which she took with a run of five straight points.

Wickmayer, who is ranked 16 in the world but had a ban for breaching an anti-doping regulation suspended in time to allow her to qualify, hit back to dominate a 29-minute second set, but Henin surged through the decider.

"It's magical out there the way I feel," said the seven-time Grand Slam champion.

"I feel so happy on the court - I feel it's my place. I feel, I wouldn't say different (from before), but I enjoy it much more, and I've found the passion again."

However, the 27-year-old, who turned her ankle in the third set against Wickmayer, said she was beginning to feel struggle physically.

"My left leg [which has been strapped for the past two matches] is quite sore," said Henin.

"I sprained my ankle also when I fell down. I hope it's going to be OK tomorrow."

Henin will need to recover quickly as she prepares to face Petrova, who followed up her demolition of US Open champion Kim Clijsters with a 6-3 3-6 6-1 win over French Open champion Kuznetsova.

Kuznetsova made 52 unforced errors and only 22 winners and was broken three times in the decider having recovered from losing the opening set.

She was clearly fatigued, playing only 36 hours after struggling in the previous round before finally beating German qualifier Angelique Kerber.

Having played in a doubles match on Saturday after just a few hours sleep, Kuznetsova said: "To play good and try to win Grand Slams, you have to be able to perform and to pass through difficult moments like this.

I'm working hard and digging deep, because I know there's still a lot to accomplish

Nadia Petrova

"Definitely it was not the best schedule for me, but it's not an excuse at all. I had all the chances to win, I just didn't use it."

She started poorly by losing the opening service game and struggled for the remainder of the first set, but hit back and looked on course for a fine comeback when she levelled at 1-1.

However, Petrova steadied her nerve and gave her opponent no chance in the third and deciding set.

Kuznetsova planted a forehand wide to give Petrova match point and netted a service return on the next to complete her misery.

Petrova, who reached a career-best number three in the rankings in 2006, has now equalled her best run at Melbourne Park and believes there is more to come.

"I'm working hard and digging deep, because I know there's still a lot to accomplish," she said. "There's still a lot to let out. That's what I'm really looking for."

In the other section of Petrova's half of the draw, 2008 Wimbledon semi-finalist Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to reach the final eight at Melbourne Park with a 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 victory over the in-form Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko.

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see also
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Henin defeats Dementieva in epic
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Order of play
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Women's singles draw
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