Serena Williams put an end to Justine Henin’s hopes of a Grand Slam title on her return from retirement with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before securing her fifth Australian Open title and 12th Grand Slam singles championship overall.
Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena, couldn’t match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters’ feat of winning in her Grand Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year’s US Open on her return from a two-year retirement after getting married and having a baby.
Williams won the last four games Saturday to clinch the final in just over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point before shaking hands with Henin at the net.
"I definitely think she’s back," Williams said of Henin at the trophy presentations.
Still, it was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of the Brisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.
The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players en route to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the second round.
"It’s been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, who put her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. "I thought it would never happen to me again. I’d like to congratulate Serena. She’s a real champion. So well done, again."
Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game run in the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominant finish to the set. She maintained the superiority early in the deciding set, increasing that to 18 of 19 points before Williams held serve to level the third set at 1-1.
Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it had been for much of the tournament, staged her own resurgence, breaking Henin in the next game to go up 2-1. Henin broke Williams’ serve in the next game, but the American broke back in the next to go up 3-2, a lead she never relinquished.
Williams held her serve in the next game with a second-service ace to go up 4-2, then broke again in the next game to take her within a game of the title.
The American holds an 8-6 lead in career meetings between the pair, including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008. At the time, it equaled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and Henin quit tennis two months later.
Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit from the 2006 final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 2-0.
Williams’ 12th singles major matched American great Billie Jean King’s career total. King was at the stadium on Saturday night to take part in a pre-match ceremony to honor the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court’s four Grand Slam tournament wins in 1970.(NDTV)