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Justine Henin-Hardenne Wins German Open

May 11, 2003

BERLIN (AP) _ Justine Henin-Hardenne fought off three match points and won the German Open for the second straight year, defeating Kim Clijsters 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 Sunday in an all-Belgian final.

Henin-Hardenne won her third title of the year in capturing this important clay-court tuneup for this month’s French Open.

The 2-hour, 15-minute match ended when Clijsters hit a forehand long. She lost the last game at love after wasting the three match points while leading 5-4.

``It’s unbelievable, for sure, with the match points,″ Henin-Hardenne said. ``I just said you have to play your best tennis now. You have nothing to lose.″

Clijsters, ranked No. 2, played with a bandaged left thigh after the first set because of a strained hamstring.

``My leg hurt a little, but these are matches I really enjoy,″ Clijsters said. ``I don’t like it when it’s easy.″

Henin-Hardenne appeared in control when up 6-4, 4-1. Then Clijsters rattled off 16 straight points and forced a third set.

In Saturday’s semifinal of this $1.2 million tournament, Clijsters needed four match points to beat Jennifer Capriati, and at the Australian Open she held two before losing to top-ranked Serena Williams.

``I think, maybe, I have a problem with that,″ Clijsters said.

Henin-Hardenne served two aces to fight off match points. Clijsters also missed the line by inches when she whipped a volley past an opponent frozen at the net.

``I got lucky with that match point. She missed by millimeters,″ said Henin-Hardenne, the first player since Steffi Graf nine years ago to win consecutive German Opens.

Henin-Hardenne, ranked No. 4 and seeded second behind Clijsters, has lost seven of 10 matches against Clijsters, but holds a 3-1 record against her on clay.

``I think she’s the best clay-court player out there,″ Clijsters said.

Henin-Hardenne has beaten Serena Williams twice during the past year on the surface. At Charleston, S.C., Henin-Hardenne ended Williams’ 21-match winning streak in the final.

``It’s my best surface for sure,″ said Henin-Hardenne, who has become muscular. ``Maybe because the other players don’t have as much power against me on clay.″

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