Henin edges Dementieva in thriller

Returning champion sends Russian fifth seed packing as Roddick and Nadal record easy wins.

    Henin celebrates an emotional win [AFP]
    US Open champion Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin moved closer to another mouth-watering match-up at the Australian Open after second-round wins.

    Clijsters scored a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand while Henin had a far more difficult time beating fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia 7-5, 7-6 (6).

    Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick recorded routine victories that kept them on track for a semi-final showdown at the season's first Grand Slam.

    Fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro's route was more challenging.

    "Finally, I made it!'' Henin, who has no ranking and is playing on a wild card entry, said in a post-match TV interview.

    Of her comeback, she added: "It's only positive things. I couldn't believe I'd live this kind of emotions.''

    Clijsters and Henin met in the Brisbane International final nearly two weeks ago, with Clijsters winning in Henin's first official tournament after 20 months in retirement.


    Henin had a match point at 5-4 and 40-30 but netted a forehand, then Dementieva produced consecutive backhand winners to level the second set.

    She again had a chance to serve for the match but was broken, with Dementieva forcing a tiebreaker and then leading it 3-1. The Russian also had a set point in the tiebreaker before Henin won three straight points to finish it off in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

    US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who could play Roddick in the quarterfinals, beat American James Blake 6-4, 6-7 (3), 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in a grinding, momentum changing 4-hour, 17-minute match.

    The thread that ties Nadal and Roddick together from 2009 - Roger Federer, who beat Roddick in the semis last year before losing to Nadal in the final - will likely still have something to say about who the eventual champion is on January 31.

    The top-seeded Swiss star is on the other side of the draw and will not meet either Nadal or Roddick until the final.

    Nadal breezed to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 second-round win over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia while Roddick was equally untroubled by his opponent in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci.

    Andy Murray stormed into the third round with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory over France's Marc Gicquel.

    It was the second straight-sets win in a row for the in-form Briton, who is looming as a genuine contender to win the first grand slam of the year after a mixed display that featured some spectacular shots but also some sloppy errors.

    The result seemed a foregone conclusion after the fifth seed made a brilliant start, winning the opening five games with a series of crisp winners.

    He broke the Frenchman's serve early in both the second and third sets and despite some lapses of concentration that opened the door for his 57th-ranked opponent, the Scot was able to wrap up a comfortable victory.

    Break point

    Del Potro, who beat Federer in last year's US Open final, had a chance to serve for the match at 6-5 in the fifth after breaking Blake. But Blake broke back immediately, helped by two errors from the 21-year-old Argentine.

    Del Potro again broke Blake for a 9-8 lead and another chance to serve it out. He made no mistake this time, closing with a big serve out to Blake's backhand side on his first match point.

    Blake's best finishes in Grand Slams are three quarterfinal appearances -at the 2008 Australian Open and the 2005 and 2006 US Open. Not helping his Grand Slam career statistics is a 4-13 record in five-set matches.

    Roddick argued with the chair umpire, Fergus Murphy of Ireland, over a disputed call at a critical time that was ruled out when it was eventually shown to be in. Roddick felt he possibly could have returned the ball if it had not been called out, and let the umpire know in no uncertain terms.

    The Hisense Arena crowd didn't appreciate Roddick continuing the verbal jousting with Murphy after the match ended and booed the American.

    The former No1-ranked Roddick took time to review video after the match, and was conciliatory in a news conference that followed.

    "To be fair, I was more wrong than I thought I was out on court,'' Roddick said.

    "It was a lot closer than I thought as far as when the call came. I thought I was going to be 100 percent right.''

    Nadal confidently overpowered Slovakia's Lucas Lacko [GALLO/GETTY]
    No drama

    Nadal, who converted five of his first six break-point chances, had no such dramas.

    "I played a serious match. I think I played the match I needed to play,'' the six-time Grand Slam winner said.

    "I was playing, moving well in the beginning without mistakes, having control of the ball.''

    "Right now my goal is try to be in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

    "That's my goal right now," he said after crushing Lacko.

    "To be number one again, that can't be a goal. It is not possible... if you're not winning important tournaments, you're not going to have any chance to be number one.

    "My real goal right now is just try to be competitive in every tournament that I gonna play and feel when I go on court I can win against everybody."


    Kim Clijsters and Svetlana Kuznetsova also flexed their muscles to charge into the third round of the first grand slam of the year.

    Clijsters was given a solid workout from Tanasugarn but was able to raise her game whenever necessary in a 6-3 6-3 victory.

    Kuznetsova overcame a minor hiccup with her serve to beat fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 6-2 and remain on course for a tantalising fourth-round meeting with Clijsters.

    "I feel like I'm good enough on the day to beat my opponents," Clijsters said.

    "It's not my best tennis yet, but hopefully I can save that when it's really necessary."

    Next up for the 26-year-old Clijsters will be No19 Nadia Petrova, one of the Russian women already into the third round along with French Open champion Kuznetsova, last year's Australian Open runner-up Dinara Safina and Maria Kirilenko

    "I just get extra motivation when I play slams," said Kuznetsova, who won last year's French Open. "This is for real. This is for what you play for."

    Kuznetsova, who has two Grand Slam singles championships - adding the French last year to her win at the 2004 US Open - has a chance to reach the No1 ranking for the first time if she takes the Australian Open title.

    No2 Safina had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Barbora Sahlavova Strycova - saving four break points in the last game before serving it out.

    Safina has held the No1 ranking but never won a major. She next plays Britain's Elena Baltacha, who has already equalled her best run at the season's first major by reaching the third round with a 6-2, 7-5 win over No30 Kateryna Bondarenko.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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