The Rod Laver Arena was almost full to capacity as the crowd urged Justine Henin to victory. The return of the likeable Belgian had added extra spice to the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side of the draw and the majority of the stadium was hoping for an upset.
Many pundits had tipped Henin to emulate the achievements of her compatriot, Kim Clijsters at Flushing Meadows last September. Indeed, when the unseeded Henin forced the match into a deciding set she had all the momentum as Williams floundered, losing nine consecutive points.
However the top seed displayed a steely nerve as she hauled herself back into contention and cantered to victory. The victory marks her fifth success in Melbourne.
From the off-foot Henin courageously battled against the powerful strokes of her opponent. The opening games proved tight affairs with Williams forced to rescue service games from the clutches of her opponent.
Henin ferociously attacked the Williams serve at every available opportunity but failed to convert an early break point opportunity. Serena then launched her own offensive and broke to love.
It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t until seventh game that the dogged Henin managed to break back. However, with the first set finely balanced at 5-4, Williams engineered a set point on the Henin serve. An unforced error saw the Belgian surrender the first set to the American.
The second set saw Henin take more risks. With the set going on serve, Henin made her move at 4-3. With a precious break point in her sights, she pounced on a vulnerable serve from Williams, launching an impressive shot which proved unmanageable for the American.
The Belgian confidently served out the set with Williams clearly rattled and subsequently making use of a toilet break.
Whatever stern words Serena delivered to herself in the privacy of the changing rooms clearly had the desired effect. She surged to an early third set lead and in truth never looked back as she raced away from her opponent.
When Williams claimed a double break the match was as good as over. Henin had produced a performance worthy of her place in the final and had provided a sterner challenge then last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beaten finalist Dinara Safina.
However as the Belgians threatened to reclaim their previous dominance in the sport, Serena proved she is still the player to beat in the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game. She served out the match in emphatic fashion, conjuring up a ferocious backhand winner, sealing the win 6-4 3-6 6-2.
Henin who showed divine grace on the court also displayed the same trait in defeat as she paid tribute to Williams. The Belgian said: “It’s been a very emotional couple of weeks for me. I’d like to congratulate Serena, she’s a real champion, so well done. I’ll see you next year.”
Meanwhile Serena congratulated Henin on her superb form throughout the tournament. She remarked: “Congratulations to Justine for having such a great run, it was a great final and it could have gone any way.”
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