Henin cruises into Indian Wells second round
INDIAN WELLS: Justine Henin says her 2004 Indian Wells triumph seems a long time ago, but she made it look like yesterday with a dominant first-round victory in the WTA hardcourt tournament.
The former world number one needed just 68 minutes to dispatch Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday and book a second-round clash with 31st-seeded Argentinian Gisela Dulko.
"It's a very good feeling," Henin said of her return to Indian Wells, where she is playing her third tournament since coming out of retirement this year.
Against Rybarikova she played aggressive and efficient tennis, building a 4-0 lead in each set and finishing off the match with a love game capped by a service winner.
While her comeback hasn't yet progressed far enough to earn the 27-year-old Belgian seeded status, she has shown she again figures to be a force in the women's game by reaching two finals in two events -- in Brisbane and at the Australian Open, where she fell to Serena Williams in the championship match.
Henin said she had benefitted from her long break since the Australian Open, but now she's eager to build her confidence with more matches.
"I have to win matches and feel confident," said Henin, who said she thinks she has already improved.
"In Australia, I wasn't powerful enough in my first step. Already I'm stronger," said Henin, whose training in February was disrupted for a week by a sore hamstring that she says is now behind her.
Despite the immediate disappointment of her three-set loss to Williams in Melbourne, Henin said that, upon reflection, her Australian Open performance showed she had plenty to build upon.
"When I came back home, I was really proud of what I did," said Henin, who could face a third-round encounter with fifth seed Agneiszka Radwanska of Poland.
Russian fourth seed Elena Dementieva -- who fell to Henin in a second-round epic at the Australian Open -- is also in the Belgian's quarter of the draw.
Henin is one of six former champions in the field, along with defending champion Vera Zvonareva, 2008 titlist Ana Ivanovic, 2006 winner Maria Sharapova and two two-time champions - Daniela Hantuchova (2002, 2007) and Kim Clijsters (2003, 2005).
Top-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova is trying to improve on her two runner-up finishes here in 2007 and 2008.
"I like playing here. Maybe one day I can win the trophy," Kuznetsova said. "I'm playing well, but I need some matches to get myself going."
Kuznetsova, ranked number three in the world, said she couldn't imagine returning from an 18-month absence, as Henin has, and fighting her way back to the top.
"I can imagine it," she said of taking the break. "But I don't think I could push myself to work that hard again."