Henin Wins Ninth Title of Year in Zürich
Published October 21, 2007 12:00
ZÜRICH, Switzerland - Having given her problems in their first three encounters - including just two weeks ago in Stuttgart, where she was the first player to take a set off her in her last 16 matches - a fast start for Tatiana Golovin hinted at an upset in the making in their fourth meeting in the Zürich Open final on Sunday. But those hopes were quickly dashed, as Justine Henin rallied and eventually won her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour-leading ninth title of the year, 64 64.
In a near-repeat of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final two weeks ago, where a top-seeded Henin beat an unseeded Golovin for the title, 26 62 61, the top seed this time faced another early deficit, falling behind 4-1 in the first set as the unseeded Frenchwoman dictated play with her big serve and pinpoint forehand. That forehand let her down at one key moment though, and the match turned; a run of five straight games gave the Belgian the set, 6-4.
"She started off very strong - better than in Stuttgart. I had to play flawlessly to go 4-1 up," Golovin said. "After I missed the forehand that would have given me 5-1, she was a different player. I felt she was dictating more and there was less power in my shots and serve. Basically, she raised her level and I didn't. That's what I have to do during a match against the top players if I want to win more."
Henin gained a critical break in the third game of the second set then held serve the rest of the way to extend her win streak to 20 matches in a row.
"Even if I didn't play my best, I was more positive than yesterday," stated Henin, who battled more than two hours to beat Nicole Vaidisova in a three set semifinal. "I definitely learned from our match in Stuttgart. I knew I'd have to hit more to her backhand, and come in and be as aggressive as possible. The turning point was at 4-2 in the first set, when I realized I was too far behind the baseline. I was giving her too much time and I had to take that away from her."
This has been Henin's best ever season in several ways, including in terms of her titles won - nine, beating her previous-best of eight from 2003; and prize money earned - she will depart Zürich with $4,365,086, which beats last season's total of $4,204,810 - which, incidentally, is second only to countrywoman Kim Clijsters' $4,466,345 from 2003. Henin can pass that at her last event of the year, Madrid.
"I'm very proud that I beat my 2003 record of winning eight titles, with my ninth this season today," the 25-year-old added. "I feel a little tired, because I have been getting to the semis or finals of every tournament this season, so the weeks are always very long for me. Madrid is my last tournament and I'm very excited about going there - it's my favorite event and the best organization in my opinion.
"It'll be the toughest one to win. The best eight in the world will be there. But you know me - I'll be looking forward to the challenge."
Henin is looking forward to time off before the Sony Ericsson Championships, as well as the holidays she has planned for the off-season.
"I'll be partying on the plane tonight by myself - that's pretty sad but it's the life of a professional tennis player," Henin added. "I'll have plenty of time at the end of the year to celebrate with friends and relax on vacation in South Africa."
Though Golovin leaves sans-trophy, she won four rounds (including beating Ana Ivanovic for her third Top 10 win since the US Open). She is now 15-3 since leaving New York, and will head to next week's event in Linz, Austria riding a huge wave of confidence.
"I'm getting the train to Linz tonight so I guess the party will be at the bar on the train, how about that?" joked the Frenchwoman on her post-Zürich celebrations. "Of course I'm disappointed, but if you told me I would have lost in the final to the world No.1 4 and 4, I would've taken that. I'm extremely pleased the way the last six weeks have gone, and am looking forward to continuing that form."
She also had gracious words for her conqueror, against whom she is still winless.
"Justine is such an inspiration to all of us, from how professionally she prepares for the match right down to how she executes."
The Zürich Open boasted a field that included the entire world's Top 4, something that hadn't happened outside the Slams since Miami last March. But Henin was the only one to reach her projected spot in the semifinals, with Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ivanovic losing their openers (Nicole Vaidisova beat Jankovic) and Svetlana Kuznetsova succumbing to a shoulder injury during her quarterfinal match.
Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs won their third doubles trophy of the year Sunday, beating scratch combo Lisa Raymond and Francesca Schiavone in the final, 75 76(1). Peschke and Stubbs, who had already triumphed at Los Angeles and Stuttgart so far this season, nearly let an early 5-0 lead go before closing out the first set and rallied from 5-3 down to take the second in a tie-break. The two unseeded teams had beaten the tournament's Top 2 seeds en route to the final, Peschke and Stubbs ousting No.2 seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama and Raymond and Schiavone beating No.1 seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber.