Kim Edges Justine in Nail-Biter
Published January 09, 2010 12:00
BRISBANE, Australia - The drama was high as two of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's legends went to battle for the 23rd time in the final of the Brisbane International, and it was Kim Clijsters who prevailed, edging Justine Henin in a two-hour, 24-minute nail-biter, 63 46 76(6).
Brisbane was blessed this week with the two Belgians' presence, Henin playing her first tournament out of retirement and Clijsters having come out of her own retirement last summer. While everyone expected a top-seeded Clijsters to make it deep, Henin - unranked, a wildcard - was somewhat of a surprise finalist, having to make it through a tough half of the draw that included Nadia Petrova and Ana Ivanovic (she beat both of them along the way).
They had played 22 times before (Henin leading that, 12-10) and in the first week of 2010 lightning struck for the 23rd time. Clijsters came out of the blocks quickly, bursting out to a 63 41 lead; the tides turned, however, as one of the best fighters of all time found her form, and Henin took eight games in a row.
Henin had all sorts of leads in the decider, up 3-0 initially and later leading 5-3, even holding double match point with Clijsters serving at 4-5, 15-40; but the 18th-ranked Clijsters, who, since coming back to the Tour had already picked up a Grand Slam title at the US Open, made a grand comeback, fighting off those match points and when getting to the tie-break storming out to a 4-0 lead, missing out on three match points up 6-3 but eventually clinching it, 8-6.
"The level was so high and we were both competing our best. It's a good match when you're both playing well - that's what it's all about," Clijsters said to the press after the match. "I feel pretty good. I don't have any serious injuries or anything, and now I have the luxury of a few days off to recover."
"I'm physically exhausted, but I can't be disappointed," Henin said. "I am proud of what I did on the court today. I left the Tour for 18 months and I can still compete with one of the best players out there. It was a bit of drama from beginning to end but at the end she played the important points better than I did. I had a great time here. I have a lot of respect for Kim. She is a great player."
Clijsters only had gracious words for her countrywoman.
"Not just today but a few days back, Justine was playing really good tennis," Clijsters said. "Like what I said at the All-Access Hour last week, I was curious to see how good she'd be in her first few matches back. I think she showed she's already a top player, very competitive and very talented too."
Clijsters' retirement lasted from May 2007 to August 2009; Henin's went from May 2008 to this week. Clijsters still trails her head-to-head with Henin, 12-11; she improved to 36-17 in singles finals on the Tour, while Henin fell to 41-17.
The doubles final was stacked with drama as well, as Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka edged Melinda Czink and Arantxa Parra Santonja in a match tie-break victory, 26 76(3) 104. Czink and Parra Santonja raced out to a 62 31 lead but Hlavackova and Hradecka rallied, capturing the second set in a tie-break and never looking back in a lopsided deciding tie-break.
"Lucie and I played together all last season. We didn't know how this season would go but we played well all week here," Hlavackova said. "We are very happy about today and I hope we can keep it up in Melbourne."
It was the Czech duo's fourth Tour title together - they also won at Prague and Bad Gastein in 2008 and again at Bad Gastein in 2009.