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Henin parachutes into semi-finals

Written by: Staff

LONDON, jULY 4 (Reuters) Mental toughness honed by an unusual passion for skydiving helped Justine Henin-Hardenne into the Wimbledon semi-finals today.

The French Open champion beat qualifier Severine Bremond 6-4 6-4 to set up a meeting with her Belgian rival Kim Clijsters in the last four of the only grand slam event she is yet to win.

Henin-Hardenne talked afterwards of her daring hobby and its benefits.

''It's really a passion. It's something I love to do,'' said the 24-year-old. ''When I was off the courts because of injuries and illnesses, I needed to find something to give me adrenaline, and I did.

''For me as a tennis player, winning a grand slam is the most amazing thing I did in my life. What is amazing about skydiving, is you are very, very nervous in the plane.

''That's maybe what I feel before walking on the court. So it's pretty similar.'' Henin-Hardenne said she took up skydiving on the suggestion of her husband after a first round defeat at the French Open in 2002.

''My husband said, 'Let's go.' I jumped. It was nine o'clock in the evening. It was the last plane that was going to take the skydivers up. It was amazing. Everyone should do it.

''It's something that you don't have any regrets about. Maybe you only do it once because you're too scared but you are really proud of it. It's a bit crazy. You need to be a bit crazy to do it.'' Henin-Hardenne refused to buckle on Tuesday when Frenchwoman Bremond fought gallantly in each set before eventually succumbing.

''The most important thing is to win and then when you can play well, that's great,'' added Henin-Hardenne. ''That's what I've done from the beginning of the tournament.

''But right now the main important thing is the mental side, the emotional side, it's more than the game itself.

''When you in the semis or even in the quarters, everyone is playing good tennis. But you need to deal with the situation and that's what I'm trying to do right now.

''I try to stay very focused on my job and what I have to do and not think too much about what could happen and about the other players. I'm very focused on myself, so that's good.'' REUTERS SHB KP2250

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