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January 30, 2010

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Australian Open 2010, Melbourne, Australia
January 30, 2010
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Serena Wins 12th Major, Ties Billie Jean King
 
January 30, 2010 -- Holding the glittering trophy and a stuffed Kuala bear, Serena Williams shouted "We're tied" to a jubilant Billie Jean King who had watched this American champion win her fifth Australian Open and tie King's own record of 12 Majors.
 
"Billie Jean is a really big mentor of mine," Williams told the press. "She was a Fed Cup coach at one time, which was super cool. We had so much fun. She even visited me before the match. I feel special that I was able to tie her. Because in my heart of hearts, I've been going for it and I haven't been able to quite achieve it."
 
A proud Justine Henin stood by in the trophy ceremony confident that her comeback to WTA tennis was the absolutely right decision.
 
"It's been very emotional for me over the two weeks," Henin said, authentically honored of her second place finish. "It has been an honor to play in front of you [Margaret Court] and the other legends watching."
 
Margaret Court, the all-time leader in Major titles, was on hand to present the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup to Williams and the runner's up platter to Henin, this evening at The Rod Laver Arena. Today is the 40th anniversary of Court's Grand Slam achievement. She won all four Majors in 1970, a feat only equaled since then by Steffi Graf in 1988.
 
Serena Williams has now won the most Australian Open singles titles -- 5 -- since the Open Era began in 1968. Had Henin won the championship she would have become only the second woman in history to win a major as a wildcard entrant. The first was Kim Clijsters, also of Belgium, at last year's U. S. Open.
 
Henin extended this championship match to three sets, after having won the second by beating power with power. However, Henin was determined from the first strike of the ball to take it to the woman who put the "p" in the power game of women's tennis.
 
"Physically, I know I have to work hard when I go back home because, you know, I suffered a lot in this tournament," Henin began. "I've been to a certain stage, and now we'll have to go to the next step physically."
 
Henin stood close to the baseline, and inside of it, to take precious time away from Williams especially on second serves. Although the five-foot-five Henin was unsuccessful at times, she pursued her strategy stubbornly the way a clairvoyant might lead a potential champion to the winner's circle -- on faith alone.
 
"I kept fighting a lot," she said. "I got a lot of breakpoints in the first set, and it was very difficult for me to break her. And then the big opportunity in the beginning of the third set, I started to play much better at the end of the second, really aggressive. She was under pressure."
 
Henin ran off five games in a row, at the end of the second and into the third. She timed the ball precisely and sent it deep to her opponent. Williams was caught on her back foot several times, bewildered by the strength of shot from Henin. Once Serena secured and held a break in the third, though, the match was virtually over. Her eyes narrowed, as if she could see the trophy come in focus, while Henin cast a dispirited glance to her coach Carlos Rodriguez.
 
Williams collapsed on her back the moment the match ended at 64 36 62.
 
Williams served a fitting 12 aces to win her 12th Major. Yesterday, she and her sister Venus won the women's doubles title, defeating the world's #1 team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber -- 64 63. The Williams sisters now have 11 Major titles in doubles.
 
Because of her dual role in this year's Australian Open -- singles and doubles competition - Serena played everyday of the fortnight. Today she can stand proud of her many achievements in singles. However she should take special notice of her stamina and mental fortitude. To have won both categories, she played seven rounds of singles and six rounds of doubles. No wonder the Williams' sisters have bowed out of Fed Cup competition next week.
 
Serena Williams knows Justine Henin presents one of her biggest challenges for the upcoming year.
 
"I know the way is still long in terms of where I want to go as a tennis player," Henin said. "I know I'll have to work harder. And I'm going do it for sure. What I did was just amazing in the last few weeks. Maybe I could be home after the match against Dementieva, and I went all the way to the final. So I keep a lot of good things now."
 
Henin and Clijsters came out of retirement for personal reasons. Both have made the WTA tour better. They have increased the quality of competition, and have thrown a light on the predominant strategy women tour players had come to rely on -- aggressive baseline.
 
Henin, throughout the championships, approached the net with success -- a move that amplifies her court skills of 21 months ago. She also leaned into her serve, an advantageous tactic when wanting to approach the net and force an opponent to come with a shot.
 
"Justine's game is definitely better," Serena said. "It was excellent before she left. But, you know, I think she's added a lot to it."
 
The year ahead will be one to watch, as Henin heads to Indian Wells and Serena heads home to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for well-deserved rest and relaxation.
 
Double Win in Doubles
 
To top off the doubles victory from the Williams' sisters, Americans Mike and Bob Bryan have successfully defended their doubles title today by defeating the #2 seeds of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 63 67 (5) 63. This is the Bryan's fourth Australian Open and their 8th Major overall.
 

Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
January 29, 2010 Australian Open: Federer Flies
January 28, 2010 Australian Open: The Long and Short of It
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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