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Henin-Hardenne reaches Wimbledon final

Written by: Staff

LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) Justine-Henin Hardenne reached her second Wimbledon final today when she out-hit fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters 6-4 7-6 on Centre Court.

Second seed Clijsters, who has now fallen at the semi-final stage of all three grand slams tournaments this year, had plenty of chances but wavered under a barrage of fierce hitting.

U.S. Open champion Clijsters has now lost her last five grand slam meetings with Henin-Hardenne, including the semi-final at Roland Garros last month.

''I played well on the big points,'' said third seed Henin-Hardenne, who now has the chance of completing her collection of grand slam titles.

The French Open champion lost her only Wimbledon final to Venus Williams in 2001.

''I love situations like this,'' added the 24-year-old, who has now won 13 consecutive grand slam matches without dropping a set.

''I've got one more match to go but it will be a tough one.'' Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, plays world number one Amelie Mauresmo later on Centre Court.

There was nothing to choose between the players today as the first six games went with serve but it was Clijsters who struck first, seizing on a couple of forehand errors to break Henin-Hardenne's serve for a 4-3 lead.

That advantage was snuffed out immediately, however, when Henin-Hardenne found an extra gear and reeled off the next three games to take the first set.

Clijsters, who has never reached the final here in six attempts, benefited from a Henin-Hardenne double fault to break in the third game of the second set and consolidated that with two booming forehands in the next game.

In a wildly fluctuating set of high quality tennis, Henin-Hardenne broke back in the sixth game, only to lose her serve to love as Clijsters moved 6-5 ahead.

Henin-Hardenne always appeared to have an extra shot in her armoury and the pressure told on Clijsters who paid the penalty for trying to hit too close to the lines.

Having taken the set into a tiebreak, Henin-Hardenne got the benefit of a close call at 5-3 when a Clijsters backhand appeared to nick the line.

Clijsters saved one match point but she could only stand and stare as Henin-Hardenne sealed victory with a wickedly dipping backhand winner at 6-4.

Reuters AY DB2034

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