In the all-Belgian final of the Brisbane International, it was Kim Clijsters who did not waffle.
Clijsters hung on to win a momentum-swinging final at the Patrick Rafter Arena in a vintage finish Saturday in Justine Henin’s tour comeback. Clijsters, only five tournaments into her own comeback which has already netted the U.S. Open title, saved two match points and then wasted three before winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6) over the seven-time Grand Slam titlist.
Clijsters started strongly and led by a set and 4-1 before Henin staged a dramatic rally.
Henin, playing in the top tier for the first time since she quit while holding the No. 1 ranking in May 2008, won eight of the next nine games to take a 3-0 lead in the third.
Clijsters rallied to 3-3, then gave up a break and gave Henin match points in the 10th game.
She held her nerve and, 15 minutes later, held her arms in the air, celebrating what she thought was a championship-winning backhand down the line in the tiebreaker when the umpire overruled.
Henin got back to 6-6 in the tiebreaker but then double-faulted to give Clijsters a fourth match point. She made no mistake this time, with a forehand that Henin couldn’t get.
“Huh, what a match!” Clijsters told the crowd. “I think we set the bar pretty high for ourselves for the rest of the year.
“It’s a great tournament to start the year with. I couldn’t be happier with myself.”
The top-seeded Clijsters closed Henin’s lead in career head-to-heads to 12-11, ending the three-match winning streak that Henin had in 2006 — maintaining a sequence in which no player won more than three straight.
Clijsters took more than two years off the tour and got married to American Brian Lynch and had a daughter, Jada, in February 2008.
She was only three tournaments into a comeback when she won the U.S. Open in September and became the first mother to win a major since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.