Henin Waltzes To Victory in Warsaw
Published May 07, 2007 12:00
WARSAW, Poland - Rain tried to spoil her victory, but Justine Henin waited it out and on Monday afternoon the world No.1 earned her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour-leading third title of the season, capturing the J&S Cup with a 61 63 championship win over Alona Bondarenko.
The opening set of the final seemed like a mismatch: Bondarenko managed only 10 points the entire set. But she was able to hang tougher in the second, trading breaks with Henin in the early goings and falling behind just one break towards the end. Overall it was a top performance by the Belgian, who added to her previous 2007 singles titles from Dubai and Doha.
"I lost a little bit of my intensity in the second set when I was ahead 2-0; things were coming a little too easy, and I lost my focus," Henin said. "But at the end of the match I got my intensity back and was able to step into the court again."
"It was my first time playing Justine," Bondarenko said. "I was nervous in the first set, but then I started playing better. Next time, I hope to play much better."
The championship match was originally scheduled for Sunday, but incessant rain caused the final to be pushed, the first time this season that situation arose.
"There wasn't much to do," Bondarenko said on the lengthy delays. "I wanted to read but I had finished all the books I brought with me!"
"It was boring; I didn't have anything to do," Henin said. "I spent some time with my coach and my friends that are here, some time on the internet.
"There's nothing you can do in this situation; you just have to go on court when you can. I knew I was in a better position than her in this situation because of my experience. I never had to play a final a day late but I knew how to prepare."
Nevertheless, both players took away happy memories from the Polish capital: Henin won a second J&S Cup, having first captured the title in 2005, and made a winning start to her 2007 clay court campaign; Bondarenko made her way into the final of an event that big for a second time, having won Luxembourg last fall, and earned her first Top 10 win against world No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semis.
"It was hard yesterday; it's a bit sad when you have to play a final on Monday morning," Henin commented, "but I'm really happy to have won my second title here. It's good preparation for the rest of the clay court season. I hope I can keep playing like this and get a few more matches in me before the French."
"I enjoyed my experience, reaching the final and playing Justine," Bondarenko said, "but next time, I hope to play better. I'll talk this over with my coach and sister, who were watching the match, and we'll figure something out."
Henin's win was by no means the only big story of the tournament; the semifinal marathon between the Belgian and Jelena Jankovic captivated the crowds for over two and a half hours Saturday and several other players came out of the woodworks earlier in the week, including Mara Santangelo, who notched her second Top 10 win of the year with a straight set defeat of Nadia Petrova. But another Top 10 win was perhaps the most resonant victory of the week. Julia Vakulenko upset Kim Clijsters 76(3) 63 in the second round, a match that would end up being the Belgian's last - the former world No.1 and 2005 US Open champion announced her retirement from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Sunday.
The doubles final was played Sunday, but moved to an indoor court. Unseeded Russian-Ukrainian combo Vera Dushevina and Tatiana Perebiynis downed No.2 seeds Elena Likhovtseva and Elena Vesnina, both Russians, 75 36 102.