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Rediff.com  » Sports » Henin wins French Open

Henin wins French Open

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Last updated on: June 04, 2005 21:41 IST

Justine Henin-Hardenne picked up her second French Open title on Saturday in the most one-sided final in 17 years, beating French bundle of ticks and twitches Mary Pierce 6-1, 6-1.

The Belgian 10th seed, who lost her world number one ranking after missing much of last year with an energy-sapping virus, reclaimed the Roland Garros crown she first won in 2003 as Pierce fell apart in front of her friends, family and fans.

The final was an embarrassing spectacle which left Pierce devastated. As her final backhand slapped into the net after 62 excruciating minutes she stood still, hand over her mouth, nowhere to hide.

Henin-Hardenne appeared almost apologetic after the most one-sided final since Steffi Graf thrashed Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in 1988.

"Mary is somebody I like very much and respect a lot. It was very difficult for her," the Belgian said.

"There are no words to describe this magic moment.

"It's a great victory. The public was fantastic, even although they were obviously for Mary."

The fans had come to crown a French champion five years after Pierce won in Paris for the first time. They had come to cheer her on as she defended their honour against neighbouring Belgium.

They wanted to see the stubborn, courageous Pierce who had knocked the stuffing out of world number one Lindsay Davenport earlier in the week.

PROMISING START

Instead they found a bundle of nervous ticks and gestures wrapped up in a bright pink tennis outfit.

"It's difficult to talk," the 30-year-old Pierce told the crowd, sobbing and shaking with emotion.

"I'm sorry it didn't last very long," she added, tears running down her cheeks.

The tension at the beginning was palpable as Pierce, slowly bouncing the ball, brushing her hair from her eyes, smoothing her outfit, held for a 1-0 lead.

It was a promising start but proved to be an empty promise as the next six games flashed by in a blur of thigh-slapping, arm-waving gestures during which the Frenchwoman won just six more points.

The crowd's spirits were dampened, light drizzle began to fall and the umbrellas came out. All the while Henin-Hardenne swept winners past Pierce or the Frenchwoman sprayed errors around the arena and into the net.

Trailing 1-0 in the second set Pierce returned a ball to a ballboy a little too firmly, forcing the child to take evasive action. It was the most accurate Pierce had been all match.

One point later she missed a simple smash from one metre from the net so badly even her own fans joined the Belgian contingent in laughing and whistling.

Pierce could do no right.

Still the stamping and pirouetting continued while Henin-Hardenne continued to crack the ball from side to side waiting for the error. She never had to wait long.

Pierce played with her hair, she stared at her feet, she twirled her racket but she could never mount a challenge against her 23-year-old opponent.

Factbox on Justine Henin-Hardenne:

Born: June 1, 1982 in Liege, Belgium

Turned professional: January 1999

1996: Plays first senior event on ITF circuit in Mallorca, where she reaches second round.

1997: Despite being unranked, she wins two ITF events.

1998: Wins 10 consecutive matches and two ITF circuit titles to begin the year. Adds a third later in the season to finish the year ranked 226.

1999: Turns pro and wins her debut WTA Tour event in Antwerp.

Helps Belgium reach Fed Cup semi-finals

2000: Skips French Open because of an arm injury and is plagued throughout the season with foot and toe injuries.

Reaches the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time at the U.S. Open, defeating 12th seed Anna Kournikova en route. Breaks into top 50 in the rankings, finishing the year as world number 48.

2001: Reaches first grand slam semi-final at the French Open, where she loses to compatriot Kim Clijsters in three sets despite holding a 6-2 4-2 lead.

Becomes the first Belgian to reach a singles final at Wimbledon, where she is beaten by Venus Williams.

Wins three WTA titles and finishes the year ranked seventh.

2002: Triumphs in Berlin but illness leads to a shock first round defeat at Roland Garros.

Reaches Wimbledon semis but is again beaten by Venus Williams.

Wins second title of the year in Linz and reaches a career high four in the world.

2003: January: Falls in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to Venus Williams.

May: Defends her German Open title with victory over Clijsters.

Becomes first Belgian to win a grand slam title when she overwhelms Clijsters 6-0 6-4 in the final of the French Open.

September: Wins her second grand slam title at the U.S. Open after overcoming Clijsters in the final yet again.

October: Becomes 13th woman to be ranked number one in the world following victory in the Swisscom Challenge.

2004: January: Wins her third grand slam title in less than a year after overcoming Clijsters in the Melbourne Park final.

August: Wins gold medal in the Athens Olympics despite being plagued by an energy-sapping viral illness.

2005: Skips Australian Open after suffering a fracture in her right knee.

Makes her comeback in March after spending more than six months on the sidelines.

June: Wins her second French Open title after defeating Mary Pierce in a one-sided final.

- French Open 2005: Complete Coverage

Source:
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