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Tennis: Henin lays down early marker with dismissal of Dementieva

If the non-Belgian members of the women's locker-room have anything to be thankful for at the moment, it is that there is not a third former world No 1 from Belgium about to announce her "unretirement".

The rest of the women's game is having quite enough problems coping with just two of these returning Belgians, since Kim Clijsters won last season's US Open title and Justine Henin defeated Elena Dementieva, the world No 5 from Russia and the Olympic champion, in the second round of the Australian Open.

Henin's 7-5, 7-6 victory took her into the last 32. It also confirmed just how serious she is about her second career, just how badly she wants to win more grand slams.

More than anything, Henin wants to win a first Wimbledon title, as the Venus Rosewater Dish is the only grand slam trophy missing from her collection, but for now another Daphne Akhurst Cup, to add to the one she won in 2004, would do nicely. Anyone who was in the Rod Laver Arena to see Henin beat Dementieva, in a match lasting almost three hours, would not be at all surprised if she went on to win the tournament.

"It was a special night. That's why I came back on the tour, to live these kind of matches," Henin said. "I think I'm already at an amazing level considering I didn't play for over a year and a half, and the draw was pretty tough. But it's the kind of thing I need for my confidence, so I can feel I'm back. Now we'll see."

Just as Clijsters won the title in New York City at her first slam back, maybe Henin can do the same in Melbourne. But perhaps the player who will stop Henin is Clijsters, as the two Belgians could meet in the quarter-finals. Henin next plays Russia's Alisa Kleybanova, while Clijsters, a winner yesterday against Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, meets Russian Nadia Petrova. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent