Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Justine Fights off Pain to Stay in Power Game

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Justine Fights off Pain to Stay in Power Game

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Pierce

Slim Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne, the star with the biggest promise of ending the women's power era at Wimbledon, fought through the pain of a hand injury to reach the second round against tall Ukrainian Julia Vakulenko.

French champion Henin-Hardenne, who ended Serena Williams' Grand Slam dominance last month, had damaged her wrist and had to drop out of a final in Holland last Saturday against compatriot Kim Clijsters, the rival she conquered in the Roland Garros final.

But after a fitness test yesterday she surged to an opening victory 7-5 6-1, although she admitted: "It is still painful and I have to go match by match."

The injury is not on her serving hand but gives her a few problems when tossing the ball for her delivery and she said: "I've got to make sure I focus. To be honest, I'm just glad to be here playing. The second great issue was that I won.

"She (Vakulenko) played well and her serve was difficult to attack in the first set but I gradually took over."

Third seed Henin-Hardenne was cheered to the French crown in Paris, having left Williams suffering the jeers in the semi- final, and she said: "I know the crowd is different at Wimbledon but hopefully I'll get a lot of support behind me again."

Serena Williams overcame the "Hewitt factor" to make a confident start to the defence of her Wimbledon crown.

The world number one, shaken by the sensational first-round defeat of men's champion Lleyton Hewitt on Monday, was delighted to ease past fellow American Jill Craybas 6-3 6-3 in under an hour.

She will now play veteran Belgian Els Callen, who took her to two tie-break sets in the third round last year. Jennifer Capriati, seeded eight, also came through impressively, ditching Myriam Casanova of Switzerland 6-1 6-3 in double-quick time and said she was capable of winning the title after her three Grand Slam titles in the last two years dried up this year. …

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