Henin-Hardenne to clash with Dokic

Justin Henin-Hardenne to clash with Jelena Dokic in the final of the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Zurich:Justin Henin-Hardenne will climb to the top of the women's rankings if she's victorious in the final of the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich. The Belgian defeated Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday's semis and will now meet Jelena Dokic. The Yugoslav prevented a second successive all-Belgian final on the WTA Tour when she recovered to beat Kim Clijsters 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. The WTA Tour had been - until the last event - a Russian-dominated affair in recent weeks. But Linz saw the mighty Belgian duo of Justin Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters contest the title - with the latter coming out on top, and preserving her status as world number one. The pair was hoping for a repeat performance at the Swisscom Challenge - but Nadia Petrova had other ideas. In Saturday's first semi, Petrova - yet another of the seemingly endless number of talented young Russian women - traded games and service breaks with Henin-Hardenne in the early stages of their tie. But a run of three successive games took Henin-Hardenne into a commanding position at 5-2 in the first set. Petrova now reeled off two straight games before the Belgian held on to take the first set 6-4. The security and solidity of serving didn't improve in the second set, both women readily surrendering the supposed advantage. Henin-Hardenne, though, always held the edge - her motivation might just have been greater than that of her opponent. Certainly, the aggression was plain to see. She is agonisingly close to topping the world rankings for the first time in her career. This 6-4, 6-4 win on Saturday moves her a step closer to that dream. Victory on Sunday will take her to the pinnacle. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible had their been a different outcome to the second semi. It featured Clijsters and Jelena Dokic - once a power, now seemingly slipping into the ranks of mediocrity. Clijsters made the first set look like a practice match taking it 6-1. The power behind some of her serving wouldn't have been out of place in a men's tournament. But it was a different, determined Dokic that came out for the second set. And, coupled with a sudden fragility in the Clijsters serve, the balance swung dramatically. The set went the way of the Yugoslav 6-4 - and it suddenly looked like the Dokic of old. World number four just over a year ago, she's slipped to number 25. She hadn't managed to string together more than three victories in succession before Saturday. Two years ago, she contested the final only to be thrashed by Lindsay Davenport. The 20-year-old now has chance to make amends for that as she took the third set 6-4 to cap a magnificent fightback. It will be tough for her, though, on Sunday. Henin-Hardenne is in her 11th final of the year - and gunning for the very top. (AP)

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