Third Time Lucky for Henin in Stuttgart
Published October 07, 2007 12:00
STUTTGART, Germany - Although eight of the world's Top 10 started at the event, it came as no surprise that clear-cut world No.1 Justine Henin would make the title match at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. It was something of a surprise that Tatiana Golovin stood across the net from her on Sunday; but it all went to form as Henin held her off in three sets for her eighth title of the year.
Coming in on a 15-match win streak (and not having lost a single set throughout), top seed Henin looked to be in trouble as the unseeded Golovin won the first set, 6-2, and held serve for a 2-1 lead in the second set. But just like she has done so many times, the Belgian lifted her game upon detecting trouble.
"She was playing unbelievably in the first set and I was making some mistakes; I just had to wait and see if she could keep that level up during the whole match," Henin said. "Physically, I started feeling a lot better in the second set and as the match went on, and I knew I could play better."
From 1-2 in that second set Henin went on a tear of seven straight games to even the proceedings, one set apiece, and go up 2-0 in the decider. She barely looked back and would eventually finish it off, 26 62 61, avenging defeats in the final of the event in 2001 (to Lindsay Davenport) and 2003 (to Kim Clijsters).
"It's very satisfying to finally win here after being in those finals before as well as getting through the players I did," Henin added. "This helps my confidence after my three week break. I definitely didn't have an easy draw."
Golovin had a fantastic week, notching her 10th and 11th career Top 10 wins over Anna Chakvetadze and Svetlana Kuznetsova en route to the final, then taking a set off the world No.1, which hadn't been done since Marion Bartoli ousted her in the semifinals of Wimbledon, over three months ago.
"She played a lot better in the second set; I got tired, and it's really tough to be mentally strong all the time against her," Golovin added. "I'm so happy with the week overall though, defeating two of the Top 10 and coming close to beating the No.1. I'm proud of the way I've turned around after a pretty bad US Open."
Henin has now won eight titles this year, four more than her closest challengers, and continues to extend the gap between herself and the rest of the field on the rankings. She looks in good shape to defend her season-ending title next month.
"She doesn't overpower you or look that impressive, but she really doesn't allow you to play your game," Golovin declared. "She's there, ready to pounce, as soon as you don't play the perfect point. She surprises you how she defends then goes on the offensive. She's the best player in the world by some way at the moment."
"My main goal for this season was to get through without an injury for the first time in my career and I'm really working toward that. I've won eight tournaments in the 12 I've played; this has definitely been the best season of my career and I'm looking forward to playing my last two events in Zürich and Madrid."
Others making headlines this past week were Serena Williams, who, playing the event for the first time since 1999, reached the quarterfinals before losing to Kuznetsova; Kateryna Bondarenko, who came through the qualifying and then notched her career-first Top 10 win over Ana Ivanovic en route to the quarters; and the team of Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, which captured a doubles trophy for the second time this season, after triumphing at Los Angeles in August.
This was the 30th straight year the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix graced the circuit, and with Henin, Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic all reaching the semifinals, this was the first time in 13 years the world's Top 3 were in the final four here.