By Pritha Sarkar
PARIS, June 9 An irresistible Justine Henin
carved her name alongside the great figures of claycourt tennis
at the French Open on Saturday.
The Belgian dished out a painful 6-1 6-2 lesson to Serbian
school student Ana Ivanovic to become the first woman since
tennis turned professional in 1968 to win back-to-back Roland
Garros crowns without dropping a set.
Henin scrutinised hand-written notes during the changeovers
which reminded her "You are the best" and instructed her to "get
to the net".
Fittingly the world number one swiped away a high volley on
match point to seal a hat-trick of victories in Paris. She
became only the second woman, after Monica Seles, to pull off
the feat since World War II.
As her racket went flying out of her hands, the Belgian
leaned on the net and held her head in disbelief. After taking a
moment to absorb the enormity of her achievement, she held her
arms aloft and tilted her head skywards in memory of her mother.
It was Henin's fourth success since 2003 but this victory
meant more to the Belgian than any of her others -- as for the
first time, her siblings David, Thomas and Sarah were courtside
to watch her triumph after years of estrangement.
"The adventure continues... third time in a row at Roland
Garros and it feels incredible," the beaming six-times grand
slam champion told the crowd, tightly clutching the trophy.
"I've had tough times at the start of the year but this has
made it all worth while. I've found my family again and it's a
great pleasure to fight for them, too. I wanted this victory so
The Belgian has sought solace on various tennis courts
around the world since her marriage to Pierre-Yves Hardenne
broke down at the turn of the year and nowhere does she feel
more at home than on final's day on Philippe Chatrier Court.
The last time she dropped a set here was in the fourth round
It took Henin only 65 magical minutes to finish another
masterly campaign in the French capital and take her record
streak of consecutive sets to 35.
After trampling over world number three Svetlana Kuznetsova
and second-ranked Maria Sharapova to reach her first major
final, 19-year-old Ivanovic had harboured hopes of sabotaging
Henin's path to greatness.
Instead, the seventh seed never overcame her nerves and
suffered the same fate as the Belgian's last 20 opponents in
"It's been a very exciting two weeks for me," said Ivanovic,
who had been hoping to become the first player representing
Serbia to capture a grand slam.
"I'm really happy to be here but I would have been even more
happy if I could have held the trophy."
Yet to sit her final exams in school, Ivanovic appeared to
have done her homework well when she fired down crunching
forehand winners in the opening game to stun Henin, who dropped
her serve with a tame double fault.
If the champion was rattled, she did not show it.
As Ivanovic's serve malfunctioned time and again, Henin ran
away with eight games before the Serbian broke the spell to
hold serve for the first time in the match at 6-1 2-1 down.
The reprieve only delayed the inevitable and by the end it
was hard not to feel sorry for the Serb, who honed her skills
playing in an drained swimming pool as bombs fell on Belgrade.
As the cheering crowd rose to applaud Henin, she became
fifth woman since 1925 to win the French title four or more
times, joining greats Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Margaret Court
and Helen Wills Moody.
It also boosted her bank balance by a cool 1,000,000 euros