Henin Fights Off Williams Sisters’ with Back-to-Back Wins, Faces Kuznetsova for US Open Championship

She moved smoothly and quickly about the court, hitting crisp volleys, delicate half-volleys, nifty lobs and ground stroke angles to die for. In a semifinal match against Wimbledon champion Venus Williams Friday, Justine Henin showed why she’s the women tour’s top-ranked pro… Henin, who sent Venus’ sister, Serena packing Tuesday in the quarterfinals, shut down No. 12 Venus’ upset bid with a solid 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 thumping.

“Finally, I did it,” Henin said joyfully after the match. “I started the match so well, it was unbelievable. The end of the first set was great tennis. It’s not easy to play Venus and Serena, you know. I think I just did a great job. I’m very happy about this one.”

Despite completing the Herculean task of knocking off the Williams sisters back-to-back, Henin, who had breathing problems during the match, has one more mountain to climb before claiming her second U.S. Open title. She’ll face Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, Saturday night in the final.

“My tournament is not over yet,” Henin said. “I just hope I have a good recovery and get ready for tomorrow night. Last time I lost to Svetlana on clay in Berlin. It was a different situation. Going to be like a little revenge for me tomorrow.”

Venus, who became physically ill in the second set, tried several times to snatch the match away, but Henin wouldn’t let her. Venus lost her serve in the opening game, but broke back later to force the tiebreak. Staying mentally tough, Henin won the tiebreak and rolled to a 3-0 lead in the second set. Then Venus roared back again, breaking Henin in the fifth game. She held serve to even the match at 3-3, then led 0-40, a point away from breaking Henin a second time.

But the pint-sized Belgian continued to belt the ball ferociously and accurately. She won that key game and held serve the rest of the way to close out the match.

“I was just feeling dizzy, having some energy problems,” Venus said. “Like when I had that (love-40) game, I have a lot of short balls, I’m tall my arms are long, I have to adjust. I’m just trying to push and tell myself, fight, push. Just regroup (on) every point. I just feel I was fighting some circumstances that I couldn’t conquer. This is sports.”

Henin said she was surprised to learn that Venus had complained of dizziness.

“I’m focused on myself and I don’t care,’’ she said. “I just want to be a little bit — no more comment about that. It’s better.”

Later, Henin added, “I could say I wasn’t 100%, but I was fighting on every point. I had the feeling we were both fighting a lot. I had some breathing problems for a couple of months, but much more the last two, three days.”

Though she’s the heavy favorite in Saturday’s final, Henin says she’s determined not to assume that the title is hers just because she ousted the Williams sisters.

“It would be a bit mistake to think that I did the hardest work because tomorrow is the big day, and I hope I can be in my best shape to do it.”

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