Serena Williams won her second straight Australian Open championship on Saturday, ending Justine Henin's hopes of a championship in her first Grand Slam since coming back.
Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before securing her fifth Australian Open title overall with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 result in Melbourne. It was Williams's 12th Grand Slam singles championship, tying Billie Jean King.
"Billie, we are tied," Williams said. "So I've reached my goal.
"It's so cool finally to do it, that was my goal, but I didn't want to say it was my goal. To even be mentioned in the same breath as her is awesome. Now I can focus on doing what she was able to do off the court."
King was at the stadium on Saturday night to take part in a pre-match ceremony to honour the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court's four Grand Slam tournament wins in 1970.
Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena, couldn't match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' feat of winning in her Grand Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year's U.S. Open in her return from a two-year retirement after getting married and having a daughter.
Williams won the last four games to clinch the championship in just over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point.
"It's good to have her back, it's exciting," Williams said of Henin. "She can definitely be No. 1, especially with our ranking system, if she keeps doing well."
Still, it was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of the Brisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.
The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players en route to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympic gold medallist Elena Dementieva in the second round.
"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, who put her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. "I thought it would never happen to me again. I'd like to congratulate Serena. She's a real champion."
Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game run in the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominant finish to the set. She maintained the superiority early in the deciding set, increasing that to 18 of 19 points before Williams held serve to even the third set at 1-1.
Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it had been for much of the tournament, broke Henin to go up 2-1. The two then traded breaks, with Williams going up 3-2, a lead she never relinquished.
"I thought I was just giving it to her at that point," Williams said. "I didn't want to go out like that. I literally said to myself, 'I need to man up and start playing better."'
Williams used an ace on her second serve to hold for a 4-2 lead, then broke again to move within a game of the title.
The American holds an 8-6 edge in career meetings between the pair, including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008. At the time, it equaled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and Henin quit tennis two months later.
Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit during the 2006 final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 2-0.
American twins Bob and Mike Bryan have won their fourth Australian Open men's doubles title, beating Canada's Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
The top-seeded Bryans faced two break points in the ninth game of the first set Saturday before winning the opener when Zimonjic hit a backhand long.
Zimonjic and Toronton native Nestor were down 5-2 in the tiebreaker before winning five straight points to take the second set.
In the decider, the Bryans got a service break in the fourth game, went up 4-1 and celebrated their win with a brotherly hug at the net.
The brothers have now won the title here four of the past five years and were losing finalists the two previous years.
They have eight Grand Slam men's doubles titles.
The men's final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray will be held Sunday night, where Murray will attempt to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam major.
Federer played in all four Grand Slam finals last year and will be appearing in his 22nd Slam final overall, a record.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS
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