The queen of Paris joined the down and out in London here yesterday as Justine Henin-Hardenne was comprehensively beaten in the first round. The French Open champion, the best in the world on clay, lost 7-6, 2-6, 7-5 to Greece's Eleni Daniilidou, a grass court specialist who took full advantage of her opportunity.
Daniilidou is ranked only 76th in the world, but her powerful serve and confident volleying make her formidable on grass. The 22-year-old reached the last 16 here three years ago, took Maria Sharapova to three sets at Edgbaston this month and had beaten Henin-Hardenne on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch in 2002.
Henin-Hardenne, the No 7 seed, believes she has the game to succeed on this surface, but paid for her lack of preparation. This was her first match on grass for two years. The Belgian's campaign last summer was ruined by a virus which kept her out for several months.
Winning in Paris for the second time in three years, combined with a worsening hamstring injury, meant that she came to Wimbledon ill-prepared.
"It's very hard to come here without any matches," Henin-Hardenne said. "It's very hard to find a good rhythm in your first match, particularly when you have to play somebody that likes to play on grass."
Henin-Hardenne looked in trouble as early as the fifth game, when Daniilidou broke serve. The Belgian, beaten finalist here in 2001 and a semi-finalist in the two following years, immediately broke back, but a further break at 5-5 left the Greek serving for the first set. Henin-Hardenne again replied in kind to force a tie-break, but despite going into a 3-0 lead she never looked secure. A dreadful drop shot allowed Daniilidou to go 4-3 up and the Greek eventually won the tie-break 10-8 when Henin-Hardenne hit a forehand out.
An early break saw Henin-Hardenne take command of the second set and when Daniilidou needed lengthy treatment for a knee injury when 3-2 up in the final set it seemed the balance may have finally swung the way of the Belgian. Henin-Hardenne, however, promptly dropped serve when she hit a wild forehand and thereafter Daniilidou maintained the upper hand.
Defeat came in miserable fashion for Henin-Hardenne, who lost the match by serving her 11th double-fault of the day.Reuse content