Henin humbles Martinez

Belgian teenage cruises to victory over former Wimbledon champion
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The Independent Online

Justine Henin advanced to the semi-final with a convincing straight sets victory over Conchita Martinez yesterday at Wimbledon.

The 19–year–old Belgian's attacking style of play proved too much for the former Wimbledon champion as she won 6–1, 6–0 in 57 minutes.

The match was trickier than the score suggests as a nervous Martinez used her experience to mix up the pace, but all too often her efforts were in vain as her groundstrokes continuously missed the court by a fraction of an inch.

The eighth seeded Henin used her beautfiul backhand down the line to perfection and all too often had Martinez wrong-footed.

In today's game it is very rare to see two players play with single-handed backhands and even though Martinez won the title in 1994 against Martina Navratilova because of her backhand passhing shot, Henin was more than equal to it on this occassion.

Both players were surprised with the ease of Henin's victory and the Spaniard admitted to being stunned by her defeat and could offer no excuses.

"I think it was one of the worst days of my life," she said. "I think I played really badly. Nothing was working for me. She played well, but I didn't do much out there."

The 29-year-old Martinez placed much of the blame on her serve, which has plagued her for the last 12 months, although she was also far too tentative to make much of an impression on Henin.

"My serve didn't work," she said of the six double faults she served in the match. "I made too many mistakes and feel mad at myself. But you have these days and there's nothing I can do about it now."

The first two double–faults came in the third game of the match and led to Henin breaking to lead 2–1, and although Henin found herself break point down in the next game after a double–fault of her own, she got herself out of trouble with a forehand winner.

A weak netted backhand cost Martinez another break for 4–1, and Henin took the first set when a Martinez backhand down the line landed just wide.

In the second set, two more double–faults helped Henin break a fourth time to lead 2–0, and although Martinez held a came point at 3–0 she again failed to hold her serve. It was only in the final game that Henin faltered, eventually claiming victory on her fourth match point.

"I was waiting for a more difficult match," said Henin, who has now reached her second successive semi-final. "But I played so fast, she couldn't do anything. I think I had to play a good match to win so easily."

When Henin played Wimbledon last year she was ranked 100. Now, after winning two tournaments in Australia at the beginning of the year and one on grass in the Netherlands immediately before Wimbledon, she has turned her game around and now has a ranking of nine in the world.

"I think that mentally I'm stronger than last year," Henin said. "And I was injured a long time last year, so I didn't have the possibility to play and to win a lot of tournaments. So, just a lot of matches, a lot of experience now, changes a lot."

Henin now faces the Australian and French Open champion Jennifer Capriati for a place in the final. Capriati was made to work hard for her victory over American compatriot Serena Williams. The fourth seed lost the first set 7-4 in the tiebreak and was 5-3 down in the second set before staging a remarkable comeback to reel off ten of the last thirteen games.

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