Beaten Henin tips Sharapova to win title

MELBOURNE Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:41am GMT

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number one Justine Henin tipped Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open after she was blown away by the Russian 6-4 6-0 in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The Belgian fought back from 5-2 down to get on serve at 5-4 in the first set but an unstoppable Sharapova won seven straight games to romp to victory in one hour, 38 minutes.

"I think so," Henin said when asked if she believed Sharapova would win the title.

"A lot of things can happen (but) she looks like she's the player who is really confident now, and she has a great chance to do it, I think."

Henin believes fifth seed Sharapova is much improved, even from their last meeting in the season-ending WTA Tour Championships she beat the Russian in a tight three-set battle.

"She worked hard, I think, in the off-season," Henin said. "Apparently her shoulder is good now, so it gives her a lot of self-confidence.

"She served great. She did everything well today. She was playing the lines.

"She was really aggressive. She was attacking the ball, and I was way too far (back). I think she improved quite a lot in the last few weeks and came back much better than she was last year."

Henin said she had been bothered by a knee injury, but refused to use it as an excuse.

"I was a bit anxious, because I knew I wasn't really 100 percent," she said. "It's not an excuse about what happened on the court, because she was much better than me.

"I knew she was in top form and I knew it was going to be tough, so I was ready to fight and give my best, but it wasn't good enough.

"She served consistently, she was more aggressive and it looked like it was her day and probably her tournament. She's in great shape."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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