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January 28, 2010

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Australian Open 2010, Melbourne, Australia
January 28, 2010
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

The Long and Short of It
January 28, 2010 -- Two of the toughest competitors in the women's game advanced to the finals of the 2010 Australian Open today. Serena Williams will battle for her 12th major title while Justine Henin will attempt to stop the American and take home her 8th major. If Henin pulls off the win, she will become the second woman in history to win a major as a wildcard. Kim Clijsters was the first woman to achieve that prominence when she won the U. S. Open last year.
Henin and Williams have never faced off in a Major. However, they have had their moments in the spotlights of many center courts. Head-to-head they stand at 7-6, Williams with the edge. Their last meeting was in 2008 in the quarterfinals of The Sony Ericsson. Williams quashed Henin, as if she were trespassing on hollowed grounds. In May, Henin retired from the game and shocked the tennis world.
Henin was asked in her press conference today if that match influenced her decision.
"No, you cannot say it's a match," Henin said. "It's more about all the things I was thinking at the time. It was more process that took a few months, you know. This kind of match shows you that you don't feel you're at the right place anymore. It was proof to me that I was tired of it at the time. It's not because I lost that I decided I should stop. It's because my mind was somewhere else."
Both women have champions' minds. They fight hardest under pressure. They can come from behind, as has been proven throughout this tournament. They will walk on the court at Rod Laver Arena Saturday with one intention - to win.
Williams' serve will be her big advantage. Her victory today over Li Na of China in two tiebreak sets was a result of accurate serving as well as the ability to win a high percentage of points off a first serve -- 86%. Had it not been for her 12 aces -- one to end the match -- she may not have fared so well. Williams wasn't running well to her right. However, when she needed a free point she got it with an ace.
On the other side of the net, Henin's serve is her weakest shot. She doesn't have the power of Williams, but no one does. Henin is accurate, though. Since we first saw her in Melbourne this year, she has consistently approached the net with more frequency. Some have speculated that she's preparing for Wimbledon -- the only Major she has not won.
Henin cannot blow Williams off the court from the baseline, but her up-the-line backhand will get her points if she can hit it at the right moments. Moving the ball around to set up put-away volleys will also be an advantageous tactic. Henin is a sneaky player and reveals little in her manners and facial expressions. This is the reverse of Williams whose outbursts seem to focus her attention.
This match-up couldn't be better for The Australian Open -- two big names that have headlined women's tennis for the past decade. Serena Williams is the #1 seed and the woman to beat on the WTA tour. All other players' results are compared to Serena. Justine Henin is in the final of The Australian Open and it's only her second tournament since her comeback.
Andy Murray put an end to the hopes of young Marin Cilic today, defeating the lanky Croatian in one semifinal. Murray astounded fans with thrilling shot-making, brilliant serves, foot-speed that rivals Federer, and an uncanny intuitive sense of anticipation. His passive game that hindered his advancement in past Majors gave way to an aggressive strategy that will confound either potential opponent: Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. In a word, Murray looked smooth.
"It feels good," Murray began. "It's obviously quite a long match. Pretty intense. A lot of nerves and stuff in the first set. But, yeah, glad I got to come through, obviously."
Double or Nothing
The American doubles teams of Mike and Bob Bryan along with Venus and Serena Williams have made their ways to the finals in their respective categories.
Serena and Venus, the #2 seeds, defeated Rennae Stubbs and American Lisa Raymond today, not long after Serena won her singles match, to advance. They will play the #1 team in the world Liezel Huber and Cara Black. The two teams have met twice, Venus and Serena victorious each time.
The Williamses have 10 major doubles titles -- three from Melbourne.
Bob and Mike Bryan, #1 seeds, and Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the #2 seeds, will play the men's doubles final. The Bryans won the event in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Earlier Columns from this Event:
January 27, 2010 Australian Open: Semis Set For Singles
January 26, 2010 Australian Open: It's Something To Think About
January 25, 2010 Australian Open: Tennis's Tough Standards
January 24, 2010 Australian Open: Competition, Pure and Simple
January 23, 2010 Australian Open: Stosur, Hewitt Advance, Dellacqua Goes Home To Perth
January 22, 2010 Australian Open: Little Known, Little Being Said
January 21, 2010 Australian Open: The Happy Slam
January 20, 2010 Australian Open: Margin Of Error
January 19, 2010 Australian Open: Soderling Shocked, Oudin Ousted
January 18, 2010 Australian Open: And We Begin, Again; Australian Open kicks off with impromptu benefit for Haiti

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