Justine Henin had barely finished off her first win since coming out of retirement when talk of her winning an eighth Grand Slam singles title began in earnest yesterday.
Henin beat second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 7-5, 7-5 in the first round of the Brisbane International, her first official tour match since announcing her comeback in September.
Petrova said Henin was a better, more aggressive player than she was when she quit the tour in May 2008 and had no doubt the 27-year-old Belgian could win another Grand Slam title.
“That’s why she’s back. She’s hungry to win Wimbledon,” Petrova said before Henin attended her first post-match news conference in 20 months. “The changes she’s done in her game is actually leading toward that.”
Henin spent a combined 117 weeks at No. 1 in the rankings, winning seven majors, an Olympic gold medal and 41 WTA titles.
“I feel better today than when I retired, that’s for sure,” Henin said. “Better emotionally, mentally, better with myself — and that makes a big difference that I will enjoy being on the tour again.”
Ana Ivanovic won her first match since September, while No. 4 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 6 Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada also advanced. No. 5 Alisa Kleybanova lost to fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Third-seeded Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, won the last three games to finish off a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win over Australian Jelena Dokic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.
Top-seeded Andy Roddick beat Australia’s Peter Luczak 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a night match, his first since withdrawing at Shanghai with a knee injury in October.
Defending men’s champion Radek Stepanek won in straight sets, and Richard Gasquet beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in his first match since the Court of Arbitration for Sport last month rejected an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency against the Frenchman being cleared of wrongdoing after traces of cocaine were discovered in a March drug test.
Britain’s Andy Murray beat Andrey Golubev 6-2, 6-2 yesterday to level the Hopman Cup match with Kazakhstan at 1-1.
Earlier, Yaroslava Shvedova beat 15-year-old Laura Robson 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to give Kazakhstan a 1-0 lead.
Murray, who won when Golubev double-faulted on match point, and Robson were to play Shvedova and Golubev in mixed doubles to decide the opening match for both teams at the eight-country tournament being played indoors at the Burswood Dome.
In the earlier match, Igor Andreev and Elena Dementieva won the deciding mixed doubles to give Russia a 2-1 victory over Germany.
Andreev and Dementieva beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki and Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 7-6 (7).
Andreev beat Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3 to level the match after Lisicki beat Dementieva 6-4, 6-1 to give Germany an early 1-0 lead.
The US takes on Australia and Spain plays Romania today.
AP, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer made a winning return to the WTA Tour yesterday after her ban for anti-doping violations was lifted, beating Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the ASB Classic.
Wickmayer entered the Auckland tournament on a wild card and is the No. 3 seed.
Top-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy started the season with a 6-2, 6-4 win over US veteran Jill Craybas.
Former world No. 4 Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan, who is playing in Auckland as a wild card, beat former No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze of Russia 6-1, 6-2.