Henin-Hardenne follows in Graf’s footsteps in Berlin
BERLIN: Justine Henin-Hardenne needed to save three match points as she became the first player since her idol Steffi Graf to win back-to-back titles at the German Open yesterday, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, in an all-Belgian final with an ailing Kim Clijsters.
Henin-Hardenne seemed on course for a straight-set win when she led 4-1 in the second set. But she then had to save three match points at 5-4 down in the third before prevailing in 2 hours 15 minutes on her second match point.
It was only her third victory over Clijsters in 10 meetings.
Clijsters had her left hamstring taped after the first set but did not seem bothered by the injury.
The third-seeded Henin-Hardenne, 20, picked up US$182,000 for her second clay court title of the year (the other being in Charleston when she beat world number one Serena Williams), her third overall in 2003 and ninth in her career.
“I have been pretty good on clay. I am much more confident on the surface because the others have less power there,” said Henin-Hardenne.
“At 4-1 in the second I maybe thought that I had won the match. But she then started to play much better,” the winner added.
By winning, she followed in the footsteps of Graf, who won the tournament nine times, including four straight wins 1986-1989 and 1991-1994. Graf was Henin-Hardenne’s idol in her younger days.
The 19-year-old Clijsters had to be content with US$92,500. But she will regain the world number two ranking from Venus Williams today. Serena Williams is number one. – dpa