Serena Williams beats Justine Henin in Aussie final
AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL - Murray v Federer Venue: Melbourne Park Date/time: 0830 GMT, Sun 31 January BBC coverage:
Live on BBC One, HD, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 live. Highlights on BBC One on Sunday at 2255 GMT
By Piers Newbery
Serena Williams claimed her fifth Australian Open crown and ended Justine Henin's hopes of a comeback title with a three-set win in Saturday's final.
Henin hoped to cap her first Grand Slam since ending an 18-month retirement with a fairytale win, but Williams was too strong in the final set.
The American, 28, won 6-4 3-6 6-2 in two hours and seven minutes.
Williams has now won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, moving her level with Billie-Jean King in the all-time list.
It was the world number one's magnificent serve that gave her the edge, regularly digging her out of trouble as she saved 11 of 16 points during the match.
And despite having had her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it had been for much of the tournament, Williams was the stronger in the closing stages as a first Grand Slam tournament in two years finally appeared to take its toll on Henin.
"I think it could have gone either way and I definitely think Justine's back
The Belgian, 27, is still without a world ranking as she has yet to play the minimum requirement of three tournaments but she has already done enough to show that she will be vying with Williams for the top spot in the future, telling the Melbourne crowd after the match: "I'll see you next year."
But she could not quite match the achievement of her compatriot Kim Clijsters, who won her first Grand Slam tournament after coming out of retirement at last year's US Open.
Despite having met 13 times previously, with Williams 7-6 ahead, it was the first time that the pair had played each other in a Grand Slam final and they provided a spectacle befitting of their status as the two best women players of the last decade.
Henin - the 2004 champion in Australia - made the better start, her mission to play even more attacking tennis in her 'second career' bringing her three break points in the first two Williams' service games as she went for her returns.
But the champion was able to find big serves at the key moments, and Henin paid the price when a double-fault and a poor forehand saw her fall 3-1 behind.
The Belgian looked to have hit back in the following game when a drop shot was called 'out' but immediately corrected by the line judge on the second break point, but the point was replayed and again Williams found a huge first serve just when it was required.
Henin finally got back on serve when she converted her seventh break point with a forehand winner in game seven but after levelling at 4-4, she lost a tight set when a backhand caught the tape and fell just wide on Williams' second set point in game 10.
Williams looked ready to take control when she had two break points early in the second set but Henin kept her at bay, before the pair swapped breaks in what was becoming a compelling encounter.
Neither player had been able to maintain their best form for any length of time until Henin broke away with 10 points in a row from 3-3 to grab the set, and remind everyone of the level of play that has already taken her to seven Grand Slam titles.
The dream of a comeback title appeared close to reality as Henin swept through a fourth straight game at the start of the final set and then earned two more break points, but Williams wrestled the momentum from the Belgian in brilliant style.
An ace and a nerveless drive volley saw off the danger and the champion was back in the match.
As in the previous set, breaks of serve were traded in games three and four, but it was Williams who made what proved to be the decisive breakthrough as Henin appeared to be feeling the pace in game five.
A blistering cross-court backhand brought up yet another break point and Henin played a tired backhand to give the American a 3-2 lead.
There was to be no comeback this time, and Williams broke serve once again before serving out to become the first back-to-back winner in Australia since 2002.
"I'd like to congratulate Justine for having a fabulous tournament and giving me such a great run today," she said afterwards. "I think it could have gone either way and I definitely think she's back so all you guys back there definitely have a lot to cheer for."
Henin said: "It's been a very emotional two weeks for me. I thought they would never happen again, that I could come back on the court.
"I've really enjoyed my tournament and I think this is the best place for me to start here in Australia because you know tennis so well, you know the culture of the sport so thank you for your support.
"I'd like to congratulate Serena who is of course a real champion so well done again."
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