Prodigal Henin is heroine in Belgian comeback win

February 15th, 2008 - 9:32 pm ICT by admin  

Antwerp, (Belgium) Feb 15 (DPA) World No.1 Justine Henin thrilled her Belgian fans as she returned after a five-year court absence, fighting past Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-1 at the Proximus Diamond Games Thursday. The World No.1 last competed at home on the WTA in 2003, reaching the Antwerp semi-finals. She is playing for the last time in her native land as the tournament falls off the calendar in 2009.

“There was so much emotion playing at home again,” said Henin, winner of seven Grand Slam titles after moving into the quarters.

“It’s my last chance to play in Belgium, I really want to do well. I’ve missed it a lot not being here to play in front of you,” she told a crowd of 13,000 adoring fans at the Sportpaleis.

The winner needed to fight for more than an hour only to lose the opening set to the number 76 Bulgarian in a tiebreaker.

But down a break in the second, Henin began to find her lethal range, getting the break back and levelling the set before sweeping the third after two hours and fifteen minutes.

“I didn’t start so well but I gained in confidence and was able to win it,” said Henin, who Friday faces qualifier Alisa Kleybanova, a winner over Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 7-5, 3-6, 7-5

“It was a battle, I could take nothing for granted. She’s a tough player who returns well,” Henin’s said.

Swede Sofia Arvidsson made the most of her lucky loser status as she upset second seed Anna Chakvetadze 6-3, 7-5. The number 66 knocked out Russia’s world number six in 79 minutes.

Arvidsson improved her 2008 record to eight wins, three defeats as she moved into a Friday match with Chinese ninth seed Li Na.

Chakvetadze’s defeat was a letdown after the 20-year-old claimed the Paris Indoor title last weekend. She came to Antwerp for the final edition of the event seeded to challenge Henin in the final.

Arvidsson got past the second round of a tournament for the first time this season.

Chakvetadze owns seven career WTA titles, claiming success in every final she has played so far. But the favourite failed to duplicate her Antwerp semi-final from a year ago.

Swiss Timea Bacsinszky defeated American Julie Ditty 7-5, 6-4 and next faces third seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

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