Henin leaves Clijsters a bridesmaid - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Henin leaves Clijsters a bridesmaid

By Robert Grant 31/01/2004 06:37:57 PM Comments (0)

World No.1 Justine Henin-Hardenne has seized the Australian Open with a psychological and physical assault from which compatriot Kim Clijsters might never recover.

It was their third meeting in grand slam finals in eight months and the third time Henin-Hardenne has emerged the victor, this time with a 6-3 4-6 6-3 win.

Clijsters, the second seed, succumbed to her fellow Belgian in straight sets in both the French and US Opens last year.

Their head-to-head record is now level at 9-9 but Henin-Hardenne has won five of their past seven clashes.

Clijsters rejected any suggestions Henin-Hardenne now had a mental edge over her and said she was happy with the way she played, but her loss did invite some uncomfortable comparisons.

In the modern era Czech Jana Novotna lost in the finals of three majors before finally winning Wimbledon in 1998, while American Mary Joe Fernandez lost the three major finals she contested.

Czech Ivan Lendl had to continually fend off questions he was psychologically fragile after losing his first four grand slam finals, before he went on to win eight.

Henin-Hardenne's victory was another triumph for her new-found self-belief, a key benefit of the gruelling physical training regime she implemented to strengthen her wiry frame.

That was an attempt to counter the game's heavy hitters against whom the Belgian felt she could not match shots.

"I'm not afraid any more," she said. "Sometimes I was afraid of myself because I needed to believe in myself but being stronger physically has helped me become stronger in my head."

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