World No. 1 Serena Williams and Justine Henin will meet in the Australian Open women’s final on Saturday. The final was determined earlier in the day after former champions Serena and Justine knocked out a pair of Chinese women, Li Na and Zheng Jie.
Serena, a four time Australian Open winner, struggled for much of her 7-6(4), 7-6(1) win over Li who was partaking in her maiden career Grand Slam semifinal.
Serena jumped out to an early break lead before Li fought her way back to force a tiebreak. In the second set, Li fought off match points serving 4-5 to get to another tiebreak which Serena dominated.
The second semifinal was anything but competitive. Playing in just her second event back, Henin ripped apart Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-0 in just 51 minutes.
“I knew it could be a dangerous match,” the 27-year-old Henin said. “Grand Slam semifinal is always very special because, you know, it’s the last before the big final. Especially in my situation, that I was very excited about, yeah, the possibility of being in another Grand Slam final. I knew I had to be really careful about that match. I’ve been very focused, very concentrate. I did my job perfectly well. That worked pretty good.”
Zheng was playing in her second Grand Slam semifinal. She and Li were trying to become the first Chinese players to reach a Grand Slam final. The win sent Henin into her third Australian Open final and her 12th of her career.
Henin and Serena have meet 13 times before with Henin winning seven. The two have meet six times in Grand Slam play and it’s Henin with a 4-2 advantage. They have never played in the Grand Slam final.
“We’ve never played in a Grand Slam final in the past,” said Henin. “It’s my first Grand Slam since I’m back, and we’re already there. So it’s more than a dream. I mean, I’m so happy to play against her because if I want to win another Grand Slam, I’ll have to beat the best player of the world. And that’s just the biggest challenge I could get. I have to be honest, I didn’t really expect that. But now that’s a reality that is coming. I will try to be at my best.”
Said Serena, “:I definitely think of her as a rival. I think we bring out the best game in each other. I think that we both just play our hearts out. I think that’s what creates a good rivalry.”
Henin is trying to follow in her countrywoman Kim Clijsters’ US Open triumph by winning in the first Slam back in comeback.
Serena has 11 career Grand Slam titles to Henin’s 7.
The women’s final will begin 3:30am ET Saturday morning.
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