Queen of clay: Henin-Hardenne wins 3rd French title - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Queen of clay: Henin-Hardenne wins 3rd French title

PARIS (AP) _ Justine Henin-Hardenne stuck to her winning routine in the French Open final. She glided gracefully across the clay, unleashed her picturesque backhand, pumped her fist, shouted ``Allez!'' and, in the end, claimed another championship.

Henin-Hardenne won her fifth Grand Slam title and her third at Roland Garros, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-4 Saturday.

Seeded fifth, the Belgian became the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Steffi Graf in 1995-96, and the first to win three French Open titles in four years since Graf in 1993-96.

``The first win was special, obviously,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ``Three is a lot. I'm joining great champions like Steffi Graf or Arantxa Sanchez. I'm very happy.''

Henin-Hardenne became the first woman to win the title without losing a set since Sanchez Vicario in 1994. And, for the third time, she won the final in straight sets.

But the victory didn't come easily.

On the warmest day of the tournament, with temperatures in the 80s under a cloudless sky, the match almost became an endurance contest. Henin-Hardenne looked tired early in the second set and applied a bag of ice to the back of her neck during changeovers.

``Physically, I did suffer a lot,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ``I was beginning to feel tired in the last two or three days. I was nervous and could not sleep. ... And I was getting very tired with the heat also.''

She struggled with her renowned backhand early but hit big serves on key points and took advantage of Kuznetsova's erratic forehand. Henin-Hardenne's unsurpassed anticipation helped, too, allowing her to extend rallies.

``Players don't like when the ball is coming back all the time,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ``And that's what I try to do.''

She saved some of her best tennis for the final few games, winning 11 of 12 points during one stretch.

``She plays smart,'' said Kuznetsova, who fell to 1-11 against Henin-Hardenne. ``She mixes up her game. And it's her mentality _ she believes a lot to win.''

The men's final Sunday shapes up as the match of the year, with Roger Federer seeking his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title _ and his first in Paris _ when he plays defending champion Rafael Nadal.

``I have created a fabulous opportunity for myself,'' Federer said, ``so we'll see if I can make it good.''

Federer has won 27 consecutive Grand Slam matches; Nadal has won a record 59 matches in a row on clay.

``It's a nice match, No. 1 and No. 2,'' Nadal said. ``He's one of the best of the history. He's a superstar of the world _ not just in tennis, in all sports.''

Henin-Hardenne has become a star herself, especially in Paris. She speaks often of the tournament as her favorite _ growing up in neighboring Belgium, she attended Roland Garros as a child with her mother, who died when Henin-Hardenne was 12.

And on Saturday, she was again the queen of clay.

The match started going Henin-Hardenne's way on the second point. Kuznetsova won it, but the chair umpire ruled the ball was deflated and ordered the point replayed.

Kuznetsova argued, went on to hold the advantage on her serve but was then broken. She lost serve again in the fifth game, double-faulting twice to fall behind 4-1.

The Russian steadied her strokes and had a point for 4-all, but Henin-Hardenne rallied to hold, then served out the set two games later, helped by two service winners and an ace.

Kuznetsova won the first 10 points of the second set, then frittered away the momentum, committing unforced errors on the next four points. That helped Henin-Hardenne win eight of nine points to reach 2-all.

``I felt like I'm in control,'' Kuznetsova said. ``Then you miss two balls and lose your chance and let her come back into the match.''

The Belgian played a solid game at 3-all, sneaking to the net on break point and winning it with an overhead. She broke for 4-3, held at love and served out the victory when Kuznetsova sailed a return long on the second match point.

``The difference today was a couple of points, important points,'' Henin-Hardenne said. ``I managed those moments better, even though we might say she was more solid than I was.''

Kuznetsova, seeded eighth, played in her first Grand Slam final since winning the 2004 U.S. Open. Against Henin-Hardenne, she fell to 0-4 this year and 0-4 on clay.

Henin-Hardenne won about $1.2 million and Kuznetsova $590,000.
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