Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2007

It’s a three-peat for Henin

Belgian goes through French Open unfazed again

June 10, 2007


— Justine Henin sat in her chair during a changeover, opened an envelope and pulled out a note from her coach bearing the word "Allez" - French for "Let's go."

When it comes to the French Open, Henin is fluent.

The Belgian claimed her third consecutive Roland Garros title and fourth overall Saturday, taking advantage of 19-year-old Ana Ivanovic's nervous play to win 6-1, 6-2.

Henin closed out the victory with a forehand volley, then flipped away her racket, buried her head in her hands, leaned on the net and exhaled.

"It's surreal to win for the third time in a row," Henin said. "I am struggling to take it in."

She became the first woman since Monica Seles in 1990-92 to win three consecutive Roland Garros titles, and only the second since 1937.

"Justine is really at home here," said her brother, Thomas. "This is really her home terrain."

Henin, whose mother died in 1994, only recently re-established a connection with her estranged father and siblings. Her sister and two brothers attended the match, and she said she talks daily with her father, who watched on TV.

"It has been a huge step in my life in the last few months, and I was glad I could give them this victory, because everyone suffered a lot from the situation in the last few years," Henin said. "And today, finally, we are united in this joy and we can share this moment, and it's great. And I feel so happy that I can offer that to them."

Henin's camp also includes her longtime coach, Carlos Rodriguez. He said she opened two notes suggesting tactics and offering encouragement during the match, and another note when it ended.

"What I'm saying with the note is, 'This is what you have done to get to this stage. Now continue,"' Rodriguez said. "It's simple."

Ivanovic, a Serb playing in her first Grand Slam final, started well before her play deteriorated. The first sign of trouble came when she awkwardly hit a serve 10 feet long, prompting groans from the crowd. She double-faulted to fall behind 3-1, and the mistakes came in flurries after that.

Ivanovic struggled in particular with her serve.

"All of a sudden I started getting nervous, and my ball toss was going everywhere," she said. "I didn't think about moving well or where I should play, and she could use that. ...

"I was thinking more about the occasion than about my game. That's what I was afraid of."

Ivanovic committed 26 unforced errors to 13 for Henin and double-faulted five times.


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