Justine on top of the world once more

Beth Harris
Sunday 09 November 2003 01:00

Showing no obvious signs of ailing health, Justine Henin-Hardenne regained the No 1 ranking with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Jennifer Capriati in the WTA Championships here.

Henin-Hardenne also guaranteed herself a spot in the semi-finals of the season-ending championships. The Belgian has a 2-0 record in round-robin play, and has dropped just one set in the Black group.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium defeated Amélie Mauresmo of France 3-6 6-4 6-4 to improve to 3-0 in the Red group and claim a semi-final spot. She has also dropped just one set so far.

"These are the type of matches that make you enjoy tennis so much more," Clijsters said. "We got the best out of each other. The crowd was really into it. To see a fuller stadium than we've had here yet is just great." The top two players in the Black and Red groups advance to the semi-finals.

Henin-Hardenne spent a week at No 1 for the first time in mid-October, taking the top spot from Clijsters, who regained it the following week. Clijsters began this week with a slim lead over Henin-Hardenne, who will end the year on top when the final rankings are released Monday.

"It's just a great feeling," said Henin-Hardenne, who won the French and US Opens. "I'm very happy because the season has been great. I did everything almost perfect."

Clijsters was typically gracious about being replaced at No 1. "She's played really well and she definitely deserves it," she said. "I'm not disappointed about it at all because I'm enjoying this moment so much, winning this match."

Henin-Hardenne's match lacked any of the drama created by her and Capriati during their memorable US Open semi-final in September, when Capriati was two points from winning 10 times before Henin-Hardenne won 7-6 in the third set. This time, Henin-Hardenne raced to a 5-2 lead and served out the first set by dropping one point in the final game.

"I knew before the match that if I won I was going to be qualified for the semi-finals and No 1 in the world. It gave me so much determination," she said.

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