Serena Williams Captures 2nd Straight Australian Open Title

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams won her secondstraight Australian Open championship, ending Justine Henin's hopesof a Grand Slam title in her return from retirement with a 6-4,3-6, 6-2 victory Saturday.

Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin beforesecuring her fifth Australian Open title overall and 12th GrandSlam singles championship, tying Billie Jean King.

King was at the stadium on Saturday night to take part in apre-match ceremony to honor the 40-year anniversary of MargaretCourt's four Grand Slam tournament wins in 1970.

"Billie, we are tied," Williams said. "So I've reached mygoal."

Williams' five Australian titles is the most by any woman in theOpen Era, since 1968, surpassing the four held by Margaret Court,Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. Court holds11 Australian Open titles overall, most coming before 1968.

Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena,couldn't match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' feat of winning inher Grand Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year's U.S.Open in her return from a two-year retirement after getting marriedand having a daughter.

Williams won the last four games to clinch the championship injust over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after matchpoint.

"It was definitely a tough match mentally and physically,"Williams said. "We were both out there to prove something, and Ithink we did at the end of the day."

It was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of theBrisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.

The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players enroute to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympicgold medalist Elena Dementieva in the second round.

"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, whoput her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. "Ithought it would never happen to me again. I'd like to congratulateSerena. She's a real champion."

Later, Henin said there was a feeling of disappointment, butaccomplishment.

"It's just more than what I could expect, I just have toremember that," Henin said. "Even if it's quite soon after thematch now, I'm sure there will be a lot of positive things I canthink about in a few days. It's been almost perfect. Just the laststep, I couldn't make it."

And she's certain now about her decision to come back on thetour.

"I was curious about what my level would be and how I was goingto deal with just the atmosphere on and off the court, how it wouldfeel," Henin said.

"I felt I took the right decision, so it's good enough for mealready. I got the results also in the last four weeks - twofinals. So I can be really happy about that."

Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game runin the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominantfinish to the set. She maintained the superiority early in thedeciding set, increasing that to 18 of 19 points before Williamsheld serve to even the third set at 1-1.

Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as ithad been for much of the tournament, broke Henin to go up 2-1. Thetwo then traded breaks, with Williams going up 3-2, a lead shenever 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 literallysaid 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.

"It's good to have her back, it's exciting," Williams said ofHenin. "She can definitely be No. 1, especially with our rankingsystem, if she keeps doing well."

The American holds an 8-6 edge in career meetings between thepair, including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008. At the time, itequaled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and Henin quit tennistwo months later.

Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit during the2006 final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo6-1, 2-0.

Williams' next goal is to reach the 18 majors held by ChrisEvert and Martina Navratilova.

"Honestly, I'm just doing what I can. I obviously enjoy playingin Melbourne, clearly," Williams said. "I never thought I couldcatch up with Martina, because she's such an amazing champion."

American twins Bob and Mike Bryan won their fourth AustralianOpen doubles title, defeating Daniel Nestor of Canada and SerbianNenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in the final.

The brothers have won the title four of the past five years.They have eight Grand Slam doubles titles, including two at theU.S. Open and one each at the French Open and Wimbledon.

The men's final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray will beheld Sunday night, where Murray will attempt to become the firstBritish man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam major.

The Australian Open is Murray's 17th Grand Slam tournament,which is how many attempts Federer needed before winning for thefirst time at Wimbledon seven years ago against Mark Philippoussis.

Murray was beaten 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final in 2008.

Two years later, the 22-year-old Murray thinks he knows how toend the 74-year drought.

"I'm going to need to play my best match ever," Murray said."That's what I plan on doing. If I do, I've got a good chance ofwinning."

Federer played in all four finals last year and will beappearing in his 22nd Grand Slam final overall, a record. Heacknowledged that the pressure will be on Murray.

"I know what it takes (to win) and how to do it, which isdefinitely an advantage," Federer said. "I don't feel like thepressure's really on me having to do it again. I think he reallyneeds it more than I do."

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