Serena snatches Miami triumph from Henin
Serena Williams stormed back from a set down to triumph 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 over world number one Justine Henin in Miami on Saturday to claim her fourth career title in the $6,9-million-dollar Sony Ericsson Open.
“It’s just not in me to give up,” said Williams, who showed a steely resolve in saving two match points in the 10th game of the second set.
Playing her first tournament since her improbable Australian Open triumph in January, Williams broke Henin in the 12th game of the second set to force the deciding third set.
This time it was Williams who took charge, breaking Henin in the second game en route to a 3-0 lead.
Henin put the set back on serve with a break in the fifth game, but Williams broke again for a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve for the match.
But inconsistency struck the American again, and she was quickly in a 0-40 hole. She battled back, with two stinging backhands and a service winner, and took the match with a line-kissing second serve on her first match point.
Williams said she had no concrete explanation for her ability to hang on.
“I don’t know. I’m definitely not a fearless individual,” she said. “I feel like when I get down, a part of me just plays better, and I think all champions have that, when they get down, you can’t hold them down. I just think, OK, it’s not over, I’ve got to play
Williams, whose Australian Open title was her eighth Grand Slam triumph, added the title to the Miami crowns she won in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
“When I play well, there aren’t many players who can beat me,” said Williams, who is poised to rise again in the rankings next week.
After a season of injury and distractions, she had fallen out of the top 100.
“I can only go up,” Williams said. “I have no points to defend until Cincinnati, and I didn’t do well at all at the Open. I’m just playing with a no lose attitude. It’s fun. I feel like wherever I go, even if I only win a round, I’ve gained points.”
Certainly Williams’s 2007 form has shown she belongs among the world’s elite. She thrashed then world number one Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final, and won the rematch here in the quarterfinals.
Henin, who overtook Sharapova atop the world rankings on Monday, had arrived in Miami buoyed by tournament victories in Dubai and Qatar.
The 24-year-old, who skipped the Australian Open in January because of personal troubles, had never made it past the quarterfinals here, but appeared poised to make the most of her first finals appearance when she raced through the seven games of the match.
Williams failed to muster even a game point on her own serve until the fifth game of the first set, but Henin held firm to get the break and serve for the set.
A forehand wide on her first set point was the first noticeable miscue from the Belgian, and Williams dug in to save two more set points before Henin closed the deal.
Williams finally won a game when she broke Henin to level the second set at 1-1. But she couldn’t find the consistency she needed, and after a further exchange of breaks Henin served for the match at 5-4.
With nothing to lose, Williams gamely fought off two match points to break Henin, held her own serve to love and broke again.
“I was playing a good game, I was really aggressive, but when I had to close the match I got maybe tense a little bit,” Henin said.
“And Serena is a fighter, she never gives up. She proved it on the match points, because she took her chances at the time, she played really aggressive. She played better than me on the important points.”
Williams had not played Henin since a straight-sets victory in the Wimbledon semi-final in 2003. She now holds a 6-3 edge in the all-time series.
In the ATP Masters Series men’s final on Sunday, unseeded Guillermo Canas of Argentina will face 10th-seeded teen Novak Djokovic of Serbia. - Sapa-AFP