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01 March 2024

Wozniacki, Henin rampant at Open

Kim Clijsters of Belgium runs to make a return to Dinara Safina of Russia during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. (AP)


Caroline Wozniacki and Justine Henin answered the challenge thrown down by Kim Clijsters in style on Wednesday as they both cruised into the third round of the Australian Open.

The day after Clijsters thrashed Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-0, top seed Wozniacki demolished American Vania King 6-1, 6-0 and former champion Henin downed Briton Elena Baltacha 6-1, 6-3 to underline their championship credentials.

But Lleyton Hewitt is far from discouraged from his latest Australian Open heartbreak and is looking forward to playing a full calendar of tournaments on this year's men's tour.

The never-say-die Australian went down typically with all guns blazing in a 4hr 48min epic five-setter against fierce rival David Nalbandian in a disappointing first-round exit from his record 15th straight Australian Open.

Hewitt, outside the 32 tournament seedings, played some of his best tennis to work his way to two match points, but could not convert as 27th seed Nalbandian powered home, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1), 9-7.

Also moving through almost unnoticed was dual Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, who eased past Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-4.

Henin, who took the title in 2004 and was runner-up in 2006 and last year, dominated the first set against Baltacha but had to work harder in the second before winning in 61 minutes.

She broke her opponent four times throughout and was untroubled on her own serve until serving for the match, when Baltacha had two chances to break back.    But the 11th-seeded Henin saved both and then fired down two aces to book an intriguing third round clash against Kuznetsova, the champion at Roland Garros in 2009 and at the 2004 US Open.

"I have almost only good memories of playing in Melbourne," said Henin, the former world number one whose comeback from retirement was derailed by an elbow injury last year.

"I have been fighting (injury) a lot over the last few months so it is just a joy to be back on court."

Top-ranked Wozniacki reaped the rewards of a more aggressive approach as she finally hit form after a poor start to the year.

The 20-year-old Dane has had to put up with questions about the legitimacy of her top ranking, as one of just three women to have reached the top without winning a Grand Slam.

Doubts grew when she fell in straight sets in her only match at this month's Sydney International and scratched out an unimpressive win against Argentina's Gisela Dulko in the first round on Monday.

But Wozniacki was back on her game against the 88th-ranked King, hitting 23 winners in a confidence-boosting effort for a competition left wide open by the withdrawal of women's champion Serena Williams.

"It was a really great match today," she said. "I felt like I was hitting the ball really well.

"Last time I played her I was down 4-1 in the third set, so I knew I had to be switched on from the beginning. I played aggressive tennis and it worked me for."