Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Henin-Hardenne wows Madrid

FIRMLY ON TOP The new world No. 1 finished the year off neatly by defeating Amelie Mauresmo to take the WTA Championships final in straight sets on Sunday

AFP , MADRID

Justine Henin-Hardenne celebrates after defeating Amelie Mauresmo in the WTA Championships final in Madrid on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Justine Henin-Hardenne hammered home her status as world No. 1 by beating defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France to claim the season-ending WTA Tour Championship for the first time in Madrid on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Belgian, who takes the world No. 1 spot from Mauresmo -- who drops to No. 3 -- won 6-4, 6-3 in her third major showdown with the Frenchwoman this year.

Mauresmo, 27, beat Henin-Hardenne in the Australian Open, when the Belgian retired through illness, and at Wimbledon.

"It's a lot of emotion for me because I know how hard it is to come back," said Henin-Hardenne, making her comeback after two months out with a calf injury.

And she said she had learned from her loss to Mauresmo in Friday's pool match.

"I looked at what I did then and today I just tried to do something else. It's unbelievable. I didn't expect to win the title here. I wanted this win so much. I gave it everything," she said.

Henin-Hardenne never allowed her opponent to get the upper hand in a tie which saw nine breaks in total -- of which six were in the Belgian's favor.

Maursemo, who was also sidelined before the Championships with a shoulder injury, showed the strain of her battles in the pool games as she struggled with her serve early.

Henin-Hardenne converted two of her 10 break chances in the first set, getting a foothold in tie with a break in the fifth game for 3-2.

Maursemo came back for 4-4 but Henin-Hardenne took two games in a row to win the first set with a stunning backhand winner.

The Belgian upped the momentum claiming victory with four breaks in the second set after 1hr 27min.

"She was better than me today," Mauresmo said. "I wasn't able to produce what I did yesterday. I didn't serve the way I needed to. I was a bit tired. I had to give up a lot of energy to qualify for the semi-finals and yesterday against Kim [Clijsters]."

"She took her chances and I didn't. That's the way it is," Mauresmo said.

Mauresmo nevertheless has had the best season of her career winning her first Grand Slam titles in Australia and at Wimbledon.

But Henin-Hardenne was the star this season, capping an extraordinary year which had been hampered by illness and injury with six titles for a career total of 29.

She reached the final of all four Grand Slams and claimed a third French Open title.

And after missing the past two editions of the WTA Championships because of injury she reached the final for the first time.

"Now I can relax, think about other things than tennis and savour this fabulous season that I've had," added the Belgian, who finishes the season as No. 1 for the second time after 2003.

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