Mauresmo wins first Grand Slam title; Henin-Hardenne retires
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Amelie Mauresmo won her first Grand Slam title Saturday, dominating Justine Henin-Hardenne before the Belgian retired in the second set of the Australian Open final because of stomach pain.
Mauresmo won the first set 6-1 and was leading 2-0 in the second when Henin-Hardenne walked to the net and told the chair umpire she could not continue.
It ended a frustrating, seven-year wait for Mauresmo, who lost the 1999 Australian Open final to Martina Hingis and had not reached another Grand Slam championship match since.
She broke Henin-Hardenne's serve twice in the first set, allowing the 23-year-old Belgian only seven points as she raced to a 5-0 lead.
Mauresmo broke serve and then held again to lead 2-0 in the second before Henin-Hardenne called for the trainer. She lost two more points before retiring.
It was the second consecutive match and third in the tournament that an opponent retired with illness or injury against Mauresmo.
Michaella Krajicek retired with heat stress in the third round and second-seeded Kim Clijsters retired after turning her ankle early in the third set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Mauresmo had the second-longest wait for her first major title in the Open era, taking 32 Grand Slam tournaments to win a final.
Jana Novotna won Wimbledon in her 45th major.
Henin-Hardenne, who has four Grand Slam singles titles and was on a 13-match winning streak at Melbourne Park, burst into tears when she reached a courtside chair after quitting.
Anxious Federer moves to final
MELBOURNE, Australia - Roger Federer spent some time chatting with Rod Laver on Friday afternoon, then went out and showed the tennis great why he's dominating the sport right now.
Federer spoke with Laver - who twice completed Grand Slam seasons in the 1960s - for the first time just hours before his Australian Open semifinal against Nicolas Kiefer.
Apart from a minor lapse while serving to stay in the second set, the top-ranked Federer was imperious as he advanced 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 to Sunday's championship match against 54th-ranked Marcos Baghdatis.
He hit 39 winners and had 33 unforced errors - 20 fewer than Kiefer, who was playing in the semis for the first time in 34 majors.
"It's fantastic to play in front of him," Federer said of Laver.
He remained composed despite acknowledging some pre-match anxiety about the prospect of getting so close, yet still being so far from a seventh Grand Slam singles title.
In the fourth game, Federer scrambled to retrieve a Kiefer drop shot, sprinting from the baseline, and punched a backhand around the net post for a clean winner. Kiefer watched it land, nodded and dropped serve to fall behind 3-1.
And there were frequent slice backhands that hit the court and spun off sideways, making Kiefer's life much more difficult.
Federer and Laver shared a courtesy car at the U.S. Open once before, but Federer said he'd been too awe-struck to talk.
"We talked this time, not purely about tennis," Federer said of his meeting with the California-based Australian. "He was really what I expected - a great person, great man."
Kiefer competed for two sets, but was outclassed in the third and fourth.
After a volatile five-setter against Sebastien Grosjean in the quarterfinals, when he tossed his racket over the net and was warned twice for using obscene language, Kiefer barely raised his voice, except for occasional disputed line calls.
"I tried to stay in the whole time, but I just couldn't make it. In the end, he was just too good," Kiefer said. "I lost to the best player in the world and he showed it in the big moments."
Federer is aiming for his third consecutive major after winning at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2005.
Laver completed Grand Slams - winning the Australian, French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon - in 1962 and 1969 and retired with 11 singles titles at the majors.
Laver didn't offer any gems of wisdom to Federer, with the 24-year-old Swiss star saying "just more the moment I think will be remembered by me."
"It was a great honor to meet him," he said. "I hope there's going to be many more times."
Federer won the Australian title in 2004 and was upset in the semis by eventual champion Marat Safin last year. Still, his conversion rate is good - he's won six of the last 10 majors and reached the semifinals two other times.
The center court at Melbourne Park is named in Laver's honor. The 67-year-old Australian was supposed to present the trophy to the men's winner at the centenary Australian Open last year, but was unable to attend because his wife was ill.
He's in Melbourne this week to present the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup to the men's winner, and Federer is an odds-on favorite to be the recipient.
He's 3-0 against Baghdatis, the 2003 junior world champion, including a win in Doha at the start of the month, where Federer successfully defended his title.
Federer has been as surprised as anyone by Baghdatis' run, saying it was rare for young players to jump straight into success on the pro tour.
"In two weeks he's improved incredibly," he said. "I think we're all surprised he got so far, because there's other very talented youngsters who I thought will make the break before him.
The 20-year-old Cypriot upset No. 2 Andy Roddick in the fourth round, No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic in the quarterfinals and rallied from two sets down to beat No. 4 David Nalbandian, the Masters Cup champion, in the semifinals.
"He proved us all wrong - he beat quality players and he totally deserves to be in the final," Federer said.
Earlier Friday, Yan Zi and Zheng Jie became the first Chinese players to win a Grand Slam title, beating ex-Gator Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 in the women's doubles final.
Martina Hingis, returning from a three-year layoff, reached Sunday's mixed doubles final with India's Mahesh Bhupathi. They beat Stosur and fellow Australian Paul Hanley 6-3, 6-3 and will face sixth-seeded Daniel Nestor and Elena Likhotseva.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article