Henin trusts to luck for final French test

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The Independent Online

Justine Henin-Hardenne gave her age away yesterday. She said the tension of waiting for a major final gave her positive energy. "I like those days," the Belgian mused. "The day before D-Day." And we thought Mary Pierce was pushing it at 30.

Justine Henin-Hardenne gave her age away yesterday. She said the tension of waiting for a major final gave her positive energy. "I like those days," the Belgian mused. "The day before D-Day." And we thought Mary Pierce was pushing it at 30.

Neither of tomorrow's women's singles finalists is old enough to remember the last time a Briton won the boys' title in Paris. That could not be said about Martina Navratilova, 48, who reached the mixed-doubles final yesterday with Leander Paes. It was in 1972, when Buster Mottram won.

Andrew Murray, the 18-year-old Scot who holds the US Open junior title, spoke confidently yesterday of emulating Mottram. Having beaten Juan-Martin Del Potro, of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2 he plays Marin Cilic, a towering 16-year-old Croat, for a place in the final.

Murray, a wild card for next week's Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club, disclosed the main reason why he had parted from his Colombian coach, Pato Alvarez: "Off the court we were arguing a lot, and he was saying bad things about my tennis and about me. He said if I continue like I have been the last two months, I'm not going to be any good. If I have the same mentality as I do now, there's no chance of me doing well. But the reason for me being like that is because I wasn't happy off the court. So that's why I had to stop."

In tomorrow's women's final, Pierce, the 2000 champion, faces the 2003 winner Henin, who turned 23 on Wednesday.

"The number 23 is my age, 23 matches is my unbeaten run, and 23 is the number of tournaments I've played," Henin said after beating Nadia Petrova, of Russia, 6-2, 6-3. "It's my lucky number."

Luck may not come into it. Not only does Henin possess the best backhand in the women's game, but yesterday she also unleashed an impressive inside-out forehand.

Pierce, born in Montreal but French on her mother's side, had a 6-1, 6-1 win against another Russian, Elena Likhovtseva.

Henin has won their three previous matches - on clay, grass and concrete - without dropping a set.

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