Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Henin eliminates another Williams in superb match

AP , NEW YORK

PHOTO: REUTERS

Venus Williams left the US Open the same way Serena Williams did, undone by all those big shots off the racket of little Justine Henin.

In a riveting match filled with superb all-court play, Henin became only the second woman to beat both Williams sisters at the same Grand Slam tournament, reaching the final at Flushing Meadows with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Venus on Friday.

"I just went with my heart. I just kept fighting," Henin said. "I got a bit nervous, but finally I did it. I'm happy to get this one."

The No. 1-ranked Henin was scheduled to face No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova last night in a title match featuring two past Open champions.

Henin eliminated Serena in the quarter-finals and Venus said she wanted to right that wrong.

But it was the 165cm, 57kg Henin who worked every angle on Friday, scoring points, sneaking to the net and repeatedly placing balls on the lines. She pounded serves at up to 188kph and handled Williams' faster offerings, sometimes leaping to reach balls that bounced near her shoulders.

Henin even came up with a second-set lob winner over the 6-1 Williams -- a delivery that put a wide smile on the Belgian's face and left the US player slumping her shoulders and hanging her head.

Henin had some trouble breathing early in the second set and said afterward it was something that bothered her the past few days.

By the end, however, Williams was the one who was spent, asking for a trainer to come out and check her pulse and temperature.

That's not to say the older Williams wasn't good at times, too.

She broke when Henin served for the first set at 5-4, ending a 10-stroke point with a backhand passing winner, and a 16-stroke exchange with a cross-court forehand winner on the line. In the next game, Williams won the point of the match on the 27th shot, a cross-court swinging forehand volley.

But Henin broke right back to end it. Appropriately, the final shot was a backhand by Williams that sailed out, her 35th unforced error -- 13 more than Henin.

Wind swirled through Arthur Ashe Stadium, playing havoc with the ball, yet both women came up with all sorts of terrific shots and engaged in several long points filled with reflex volleys, great gets and clean winners on the run.

It was precisely what might be expected from a couple of players who each won six Grand Slam titles.

Henin was to try for No. 7 on yesterday. She's into her third US Open final since 2003 -- she won the title that year and was the runner-up last year.

The only other player who defeated both Williams siblings at a single major tournament was Martina Hingis at the 2001 Australian Open, where she also got past Serena in the quarter-finals and Venus in the semi-finals. Hingis lost to Jennifer Capriati in the final.

Henin will be a heavy favorite to avoid a similar letdown. She is 14-2 against Kuznetsova, including a victory in last year's French Open final.

"I don't want to think about it," said Kuznetsova, who got off to a horrible start in her semi-final against No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze.

How horrible? Chakvetadze won the first set despite hitting only one winner.

And then, slowly but surely, 2004 champion Kuznetsova began keeping the ball between the lines and Chakvetadze began missing. In full control late, the Kuznetsova defeated Chakvetadze 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

"I played the worst first set. I couldn't put the ball in, and I was really embarrassed by my game," Kuznetsova said.

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