Henin makes winning return to tennis

Justine Henin made a winning comeback from retirement on Monday, beating second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 7-5, 7-5 in the first
round of the Brisbane International.

The 27-year-old Belgian, who quit the tour in May 2008 when she held the number one ranking, was too good for the 20th-ranked Petrova in her first official tour match since announcing her comeback last September.

She played a consistent game, despite dropping serve to open the second set, and took advantage as Petrova’s forehand errors piled up.

After sprinting to the net and producing a deep, winning lob in the eighth game of the second set, she yelled “Allez” and pumped her fist in her trademark way.

The winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles will play a qualifier in the second round. Henin is playing in Brisbane this week and Sydney next week on wild card entries as she prepares for the Australian Open, which will be her first major in two years.

Earlier, 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic beat Jelena Dokic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in her first tour match in three months.

The third-seeded Ivanovic won the last three games after a tight tussle with Dokic, converting her second match point after the Australian player dumped a forehand into the net.

The former number one-ranked Ivanovic hasn’t played since a first-round exit at Tokyo in September, which followed a disappointing first-round exit at the US Open. It was a tough
workout overall for the 2008 French Open champion, who didn’t win a tournament in 2009 and has slipped to 21 in the rankings.

After one match back, the 21-year-old Serbian is aiming to return to the top 10 and play in the year-end championship.

“Obviously there were nerves in the beginning, but I did a really good preparation and that gave me a lot of confidence,” she said. “I thought I was serving and moving a lot better than my previous match, which has been a while, so it’s definitely good to
have a victory under the belt.”

In other women’s results, Czech player Lucie Safarova beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1 and Roberta Vinci beat Sara Errani 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in an all-Italian match.

Richard Gasquet, returning from a turmoil-filled six months, beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

He said it was an important victory to clear his head in his first match since the Court of Arbitration for Sport last month rejected an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Tennis Federation against Gasquet being cleared of wrongdoing after traces of cocaine were discovered in a March drug test.

The CAS accepted Gasquet’s claim that he inadvertently consumed cocaine by kissing a woman in a Miami club hours after withdrawing injured from a tournament.

“It is just good for me to play with nothing in the head,” said Gasquet, who was a semifinalist here last year. “It was most important I could play relaxed.”

In other men’s first-round results, Colombia’s Alejandro Falla beat seventh-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 6-4, Marc Gicquel beat Germany’s Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-1 and American Wayne Odesnik beat French veteran Arnaud Clement 6-4, 7-6 (2). – Sapa-AP


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