Clijsters wins all-Belgian final over Henin
BRISBANE:hung on to win a momentum-swinging all-Belgian final at the Brisbane International in a vintage finish Saturday in Justine Henin's tour comeback.
Clijsters, only five tournaments into her own comeback which has already netted the U.S. Open title, saved two match points and then wasted three before winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6) over the seven-time Grand Slam titlist.
Clijsters started strongly and led by a set and 4-1 before Henin staged a dramatic rally.
Henin, playing in the top tier for the first time since she quit while holding the No. 1 ranking in May 2008, won eight of the next nine games to take a 3-0 lead in the third.
Clijsters rallied to 3-3, then gave up a break and gave Henin match points in the 10th game.
She held her nerve and, 15 minutes later, held her arms in the air, celebrating what she thought was a championship-winning backhand down the line in the tiebreaker when the umpire overruled.
Henin got back to 6-6 in the tiebreaker but then double-faulted to give Clijsters a fourth match point. She made no mistake this time, with a forehand that Henin couldn't get.
"Huh, what a match!" Clijsters told the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena. "I think we set the bar pretty high for ourselves for the rest of the year.
"It's a great tournament to start the year with. I couldn't be happier with myself."
The top-seeded Clijsters closed Henin's lead in career head-to-heads to 12-11, ending the three-match winning streak that Henin had in 2006 — maintaining a sequence in which no player won more than three straight.
Clijsters took more than two years off the tour and got married to American Brian Lynch and had a daughter, Jada, in February 2008.
She was only three tournaments into a comeback when she won the U.S. Open in September and became the first mother to win a major since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.
's daughter and husband were in the crowd on Saturday, when she donated her tournament winnings to Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital, which she had visited earlier in the week.
Henin, who beat second-seeded Ana Ivanovic in her semifinal, joked that she didn't know what to do after a match.in her opening match and third-seeded
"I forgot how to make a speech!" she said, laughing. "It's just great to be back. I want to congratulate Kim. It was a great fight. I really enjoyed my time out here tonight.
"It couldn't expect more. It was a dream."
Henin was playing on a wild card in Brisbane and has the same status next week for the Sydney International, where she could take on top-ranked Serena Williams in the second round if she wins her opening match.
Clijsters will go straight to Melbourne to fine-tune for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18.
Men's top seed Andy Roddick has a final to play Sunday against defending champion before he heads to Melbourne.
Roddick rallied for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the semifinals earlier Saturday.
Stepanek easily beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-1 in an hour in the first semifinal.
Roddick dropped serve twice in the opening set against Berdych, when he didn't convert any of his four breakpoint chances. It was the first time in the tournament that his serve had been broken, ending a run of 30 straight winning service games.
But he rebounded in the second set, building a 3-0 lead with an early break. The third set was on serve until Roddick broke for a 5-4 advantage.
"I like to confuse and conquer sometimes," Roddick joked of his first-set lapse. "I didn't feel like I was hitting the ball that badly, but he played really well.
"The biggest part of the match was the first couple of games of the second set, where I didn't want to let him keep rolling ... to stop the momentum early in the second."
Soon after his singles win Saturday, he joined James Blake for a doubles semifinal, but the American pair lost 6-4, 3-6, 13-11 to and .
The French duo will meet top-seeded Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes in Sunday's doubles final.