Justine Henin advances at Wimbledon by beating Kristina Barrois 6-3, 7-5

By Steven Wine, AP
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Henin reaches 3rd round at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England — Justine Henin sweated a bit Wednesday at sunny Wimbledon, and not just because of the warm weather.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion twice was broken serving for the match, then regrouped and advanced to the third round by beating Kristina Barrois 6-3, 7-5.

Playing first on cozy Court 2, Henin built leads of 4-1 in the first set and 5-1 in the second. Serving for the win at 5-2, she double-faulted on consecutive points and lost the game, then lost serve again for 5-all.

But Henin broke back and served out the victory at love. She exhaled in relief after winning the final point against the German.

Umbrellas were out — not for rain, but as shields from the sun on the hottest day of the tournament. With temperature heading into the low 80s, the All England Club’s public address announcer advised spectators to make sure they had skin protection, head wear and water.

“All are vital necessities,” he said.

Aside from the wobble at the finish, Henin kept her cool and improved to 7-0 on grass this year. She won the title at Den Bosch, Netherlands, last week.

Seeded 17th, the Belgian is playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2007. She retired in 2008 and rejoined the tour in January.

Henin seeks the only major title she has yet to win. She was runner-up at Wimbledon in 2001 and 2006.

Maria Sharapova’s back at Wimbledon, healthy again and hoping to display the grass-court flair that helped her win the title in 2004 as a precocious 17-year-old. She started strong Tuesday, beating fellow Russian Anastasia Pivovarova 6-1, 6-0 in 54 minutes.

It has been awhile since Sharapova made a run at Wimbledon. Two years ago, she lost in the second round to Alla Kudryavtseva, a Russian ranked 154th. Last year, following a 10-month layoff because of a shoulder injury, she lost in the second round to Gisela Dulko.

Now, she’s sounding optimistic about an extended stay.

“My body feels good,” she said. “I’m in much better match condition than I was last year.”

She’s 18-5 in 2010 with two tournament titles. And she’s having fun.

“My joy in the game is pretty up there with what it was before I got injured,” she said. “Maybe even more so, because it was taken away from me for such a long period of time that it made me realize how blessed you are when you’re actually on the court, are able to hit a tennis ball for an hour a day, and be good at what you do.”

The former No. 1 dropped out of the top 100 during her layoff. She is now 17th, still low enough that she becomes a dangerous floater in the draw, and she could face defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round.

Sharapova’s right shoulder, which required surgery in October 2008, bothers her only on occasion.

“If it’s like really, really cold, like almost snowing,” she said.

Wimbledon’s weather can be bad, but there’s no snow in the forecast. Nonetheless, Sharapova will give herself time to get loose.

“When I was younger, a few years ago, if I wouldn’t play for a few days, I would come out, the third, fourth serve I could hit pretty much as hard as I can,” she said. “Now it’s like 10, 15, 20 serves by the time it warms up. It’s just those little things.”

The 6-foot-2 Russian’s serve seemed fine in her opening match. She won 17 of 18 points on her first serve, which reached 115 mph, and never faced a break point.

Granted, it wasn’t much of a test. Pivovarova lost in qualifying and made the main draw only because another player pulled out. She was making her grass-court debut.

“I was expecting to play someone else,” Sharapova said. “Kind of last minute was playing against her. So I think the goal was to come out and just try to figure things out pretty quickly. And I did a good job of that.”

Sharapova hasn’t defeated a top-10 player this year, and she missed time this spring with a bone bruise in her right elbow, but she said she has rebuilt her game to where she can beat anyone.

It’s merely a question of rising to the occasion — which the three-time Grand Slam champion has done in the past.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to make 50 backhands or 50 forehands in a row,” Sharapova said. “Everyone’s going to make mistakes. But it’s about your game plan, and how you execute.”

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