Australian Open

Henin outlasts Dementieva

2010-01-20 14:01
Epic win (File)

Melbourne - Justine Henin kept her fairytale comeback on track as she beat fifth seeded Russian Elena Dementieva in a marathon second round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Playing just her second tournament since returning from an 18-month retirement, an emotional Henin outlasted Dementieva 7-5, 7-6 (8/6) in a two hour, 50 minute classic on the Rod Laver Arena.

The 27-year-old showed enormous mental strength to recover from wasting a match point while leading 5-4 in the second set, then to come back from being 1-3 down in the second set tiebreak with her body about to start cramping.

"When I missed that (match point), when she came back to 5-5, I thought about Brisbane and the opportunities I got there (when she lost the final to Kim Clijsters)," Henin said.

"And today I thought it was going to happen again.

"I really thought in the tie-break I wouldn't be strong enough, and when I got the opportunities, and the way I finished on a serve and volley, I mean, it was the best I could dream of."

Henin said when she got into the tie-break she decided she had to go all out to end the match in two sets.

"I felt, all right, let's go for it," she said. "It was brief, but that's what I needed.

"I was almost cramping at the time -- physically I was a bit exhausted at the end so it was the good thing to do."

Both women played some spectacular attacking tennis over the two sets, with the quality of the match more suited to a final than the second round.

Either would have made a worthy winner, but Henin just managed to keep her composure on the big points to eke out the narrowest of victories, despite her first serve falling away badly as the match wore on.

Henin said later she couldn't recall ever playing such an intense match at this stage of a Grand Slam.

"Not a second round, I don't think so," she said.

"Maybe I had difficult matches, winning in three sets ... but not playing a top 10 player like that."

Dementieva, who has never won a Grand Slam, could be forgiven for cursing the vagaries of the draw that saw her matched against the seven-time Grand Slam winner so early in the tournament.

But she said she didn't see it that way.

"I don't take it as a bad luck - there is never an easy draw," Dementieva said.

"I came here not to pass the second round, I came here to be in the final.

"You have to be ready facing Justine if you want to win the whole title, so I don't take it as a bad draw."

Despite her time away from the tour, Henin showed she has lost none of her shot-making ability or her legendary tenacity, but she was matched almost point for point by the Russian world number five.

Dementieva had her opportunities, with three set points in the first set and another in the second, but Henin managed to save them all and then convert her chances when they came.

Both Henin and Dementieva attacked from the outset, with service breaks coming thick and fast in both sets.

There was no indication as to the likely winner when Dementieva skipped away to a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak.

But Henin was not to be denied and she came storming back to level the scores, saving a set point at 5-6 in the tiebreak then winning the next two points to take the match.

"It's magical to win this kind of match in this kind of atmosphere, Henin said.

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