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 sheâ€™s the women tourâ€™s top-ranked pro… Henin, who sent Venusâ€™ sister, Serena packing Tuesday in the quarterfinals, shut down No. 12 Venusâ€™ upset bid with a solid 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 thumping.
â€œFinally, I did it,â€ Henin said joyfully after the match. â€œI started the match so well, it was unbelievable. The end of the first set was great tennis. Itâ€™s not easy to play Venus and Serena, you know. I think I just did a great job. Iâ€™m very happy about this one.â€
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. Sheâ€™ll face Russiaâ€™s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, Saturday night in the final.
â€œMy tournament is not over yet,â€ Henin said. â€œI 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.â€
Venus, who became physically ill in the second set, tried several times to snatch the match away, but Henin wouldnâ€™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.
â€œI was just feeling dizzy, having some energy problems,â€ Venus said. â€œLike when I had that (love-40) game, I have a lot of short balls, Iâ€™m tall my arms are long, I have to adjust. Iâ€™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 couldnâ€™t conquer. This is sports.â€
Henin said she was surprised to learn that Venus had complained of dizziness.
â€œIâ€™m focused on myself and I donâ€™t care,â€™â€™ she said. â€œI just want to be a little bit — no more comment about that. Itâ€™s better.â€
Later, Henin added, â€œI could say I wasnâ€™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.â€
Though sheâ€™s the heavy favorite in Saturdayâ€™s final, Henin says sheâ€™s determined not to assume that the title is hers just because she ousted the Williams sisters.
â€œIt 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.â€