Thursday 22 February 2018

Tennis: Henin's rise from off the radar has Williams on edge

Mark Hodgkinson

On the ranking computer, Justine Henin does not officially exist, not now and not even next Monday morning when the new power list will be published.

Even if Henin beats Serena Williams in the Australian Open women's final tomorrow, she will not have a ranking next week, as you need to have played at least three tournaments to qualify and this is only her second event since she came out of retirement. So, the world No 1 and title-holder could lose to a cipher, someone without official status.

Nowhere is more hierarchical than a tennis locker-room; with the ranking list, everyone can quickly judge a player's class and form, who is up and who is down.

If Henin walks away from Melbourne Park with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, but without any official position in the tennis rankings, that would be extraordinary. Even in this age of instant gratification, that would be fast living by the Belgian.

"The dream continues," said the wild card after trouncing China's Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-0 inside an hour.

Williams, who is bidding to win her fifth title at Melbourne, needed two tie-break sets to overcome the plucky challenge of Li Na 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7-1) in a shade over two hours.

The American was forced to dig deep for the second match running and fluffed four match-points before she finally won the contest with an ace. Remarkably, Williams and Henin have never met in a Grand Slam final despite sharing 18 titles between them, although the Belgian knocked her American rival out in the quarter-finals of three Grand Slams in 2007 -- the year before she retired.

"I just always use to meet her in the quarter-finals," Williams said. "She was doing everything and beating me really bad. I definitely think of her as a rival. I think we bring out the best game in each other." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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