Henin-Hardenne beats Mauresmo to Championships

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MADRID, Nov 12 (Reuters) Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne claimed the first WTA Championships of her career when she beat Amelie Mauresmo 6-4 6-3 in an absorbing exhibition of high-quality tennis in today's final.

Henin-Hardenne, who will succeed Mauresmo as world number one when the final rankings of the year are released tomorrow, played some immaculate tennis as she closed out the defending champion in straight sets in a fitting end to the season.

The victory gave the three-times Roland Garros champion some revenge for her losses to the Frenchwoman in the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year.

Henin-Hardenne, who reached the final of all four grand slam tournaments this season is the first player since Martina Hingis in 2000 to win the Championships and end the year as number one.

''It couldn't have been better, especially as it was doubtful as to whether I would even take part this year,'' said an ecstatic Henin-Hardenne, who came back at the start of the week after a two-month lay-off following a calf injury in the Fed Cup final in September.

''I came here, I played well and I won. I knew I had to be aggressive and that's what I tried to do. It's been a great year, reaching the final of the four grand slams, winning the Championships.

''I have to be really satisfied and it's a big achievement to be the number one too. Now it's time for maybe a little party and a good vacation.'' Reuters DKA DB2231

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