Williams wins Amelia Island for fourth title this year

Monday, April 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) _ Venus Williams wouldn't allow herself to lose.

Down a set and four games to Justine Henin in the final of the Bausch & Lomb Championships, the world's second-ranked women's tennis player rallied Sunday for a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory.

``It's very tough to close a top player out, very tough to close me out,'' Williams said after wiping out a 4-0 deficit in the second set and twice refusing to give in when Henin came within two points of winning.

``Back in the day, I lost a lot of matches like these. I guess about two years ago it came to a point where I was tired of losing. I was tired of heartbreak. I was tired, not that I didn't deserve it, of watching other people win when I was at the finish line.''

The title was Williams' fourth this season, and 25th overall, boosting her career earnings past $9.8 million.

Henin flirted with victory twice, but she couldn't hold a 5-4 lead in the second set and faltered again after going up 5-3 in the third.

``I'm a little disappointed, but that's tennis,'' Henin said. ``I'm only 19. I got nervous trying to finish the match. I have to work on that.''

Williams won five straight points to go up 6-1 in the third-set tiebreaker. The second-seeded Henin fought off match point four times before smashing a forehand into the net to end the 2-hour, 24-minute match.

Williams, who earned $93,000 to increase this season's winnings to $501,673, is 4-0 in finals against Henin, including a three-set victory at Wimbledon last year.

She also beat Henin in the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships in January and the Diamond Championships in February.

``She was impressive,'' said Henin, ranked ninth in the world. ``She's a tough player, a great champion, and I have a lot of respect for her.''

Williams, who's won 16 of the last 17 finals she's played, improved to 5-1 lifetime against Henin, whose only victory against Williams came in the only other match they played on clay.

That win in the round of 16 at the 2001 German Open, as well as a three-set loss on carpet in the Diamond Championships, gave Henin confidence that she could pull an upset Sunday.

She broke Williams' serve five straight times on the way to winning the first set and building the 4-0 lead in the second. Although Williams dropped eight straight games at point, the top seed remained confident she would win if she could extend the match to a third set.

``I always believed that I could somehow pull it out, but it was really bleak. The way she was playing, I just wasn't sure I could do anything about (losing) at that point,'' Williams said.

``I just wanted it to look presentable. I didn't want to lose 6-2, 6-0. I got a game, then I got another. I kept telling myself I wasn't losing today.''