Monday, February 27, 2006

Henin-Hardenne beats Sharapova in Dubai tennis final

TOI, Sunday 26th Feb,06

DUBAI: Justine Henin-Hardenne won her 25th career title when she defeated Maria Sharapova 7-5 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Open.

It was the fourth-seeded Belgian's third Dubai title and her second tournament victory of the year after winning in Sydney and finishing as runner-up at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Third seed Sharapova, denied her 11th career title in her first final since she won on grass in Birmingham in June, was particularly adventurous in trying her luck at the net withvarying degrees of success.

However, the 18-year-old Russian's limitations were exposed in the latter stages when she lacked patience in the rallies and failed to build a winning position.

Sharapova had to fight off two break points at 3-3, but then broke to lead 5-3 when she hit a drop shot so perfect that it caused her astonished opponent to drop her racquet, and then mis-hit a backhand wide.

Henin-Hardenne, though, responded by denying Sharapova as she served for the set and from 5-5 conceded just one more point.

Henin-Hardenne broke to lead 3-2 in the second set when Sharapova netted a forehand from the Belgian's fierce return. Having moved exceptionally well throughout the match,Henin-Hardenne made it count the most at 4-2 when she ran down a ball from Sharapova and made a glorious backhand winner to earn a second break.

A dispirited Sharapova made one final effort to rescue the match, but Henin-Hardenne held off two break points before claiming victory.

After gaining a revenge 6-3 6-4 win over Hingis in the afternoon, Sharapova alleviated the boredom by doing her online studies for her high school degree.

She then came out and beat defending champion Davenport in a match which ended close to midnight. Henin's win over Kuznetsova extended her unbeaten run to 14 matches in Dubai.

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