Henin feels emotion of comeback win

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The Independent Online

An emotional Justine Henin today described her French Open comeback as "a beautiful moment" after coming through a tricky first-round match against Tsvetana Pironkova.

Playing at Roland Garros for the first time since completing a hat-trick of singles title wins in 2007, the four-time champion showed only glimpses of her scintillating best on Philippe Chatrier Court and struggled on serve throughout.

But she did enough to seal a 6-4 6-3 victory in one hour 29 minutes and set up a second-round meeting with Klara Zakopalova.

Former world number one Henin, who decided to end her 16-month retirement in September last year, was technically on a 21-match winning streak at Roland Garros, having not lost there since 2004.

The Belgian 22nd seed had also won her last 35 sets in the tournament, a statistic she had more than a little difficulty extending to 37 today.

"I did not have the opportunity to practise on centre court before this morning, so I came in at 9.45am," said the 27-year-old.

"Even if I know this court - I've experienced beautiful things here - but I walked on this court and it was unknown to me.

"Then, when I started playing, many things came back to my memory, and I had this beautiful feeling of happiness, of being here again.

"I thought I would never experience that again in my life.

"That's probably the tennis court on which I had the most beautiful emotions in my life, so it has a special place in my heart, and that will never change. That's why it was emotional today."

Henin's morning start meant the early stages of her match were witnessed by a handful of spectators.

"People came little by little," she said.

"And, at the end of the match, I really enjoyed the standing ovation from the crowd.

"It was extraordinary. It was a beautiful moment for me."

There was also plenty of emotion on Suzanne Lenglen Court, which witnessed undoubtedly the biggest upset of the tournament so far.

Dinara Safina, runner-up for the last two years and the former world number one, fell apart against 39-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm to lose 3-6 6-4 7-5 in an extraordinary two hour 34 minute saga.

Multiple grand slam semi-finalist Date-Krumm, who had been retired for 12 years before returning to the circuit two years ago, burst into tears after recording what was her first win in a major for 14 years.

The Japanese veteran's success was all the more remarkable as she was struggling with a calf injury throughout.

Safina was the only seed toppled by mid-afternoon in the women's draw.

Among those safely though were Shahar Peer (18), who beat Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-1 6-4, Vera Zvonareva (21), who saw off Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-1, Daniela Hantuchova (23) who crushed Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1 6-1, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29), who cruised past Alize Cornet 6-4 6-2.