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Clijsters ends Henin return in all-Belgian cliff-hanger

Kim Clijsters finally got the better of fellow Belgian Justine Henin after an epic three-set battle in the final of the Brisbane International tennis tournament, dashing Henin's hopes of winning her first tournament since returning to the sport.


AFP - Belgium's Kim Clijsters beat compatriot Justine Henin 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6) to win a drama-charged final of the Brisbane International tennis tournament on Saturday.

The two great rivals battled it out for two hours, 23 minutes before Clijsters eventually claimed victory on her fourth championship point.

Henin's hopes of winning her first tournament since making a comeback to the sport ended with the loss, but she showed enough to suggest she will be a major force at the upcoming Australian Open.

Clijsters, who made her own comeback midway through last year, played some brilliant tennis in the first one and a half sets and appeared headed for an easy victory.

But she stumbled badly when trying to close out the match at 4-1, and Henin seized on her opponent's nerves, attacking relentlessly and winning five straight games to put the match back on even terms.

Henin kept the pressure up at the start of the third, winning her first service game, breaking a shell-shocked Clijsters then holding her own serve to lead 3-0 and take an apparently firm grip on the final.

Clijsters refused to give in, however, and broke back to put the set back on serve only to give away the advantage in the eighth game when she put an overhead smash into the net to concede the break.

But in yet another twist Clijsters broke back immediately, winning the game in almost identical fashion, this time Henin putting a smash into the net.

Henin brought up two championship points in the next game when Clijsters served at 4-5 to stay in the match, but couldn't convert either and Clijsters held on, with the set almost inevitably going to a tie-break.

Clijsters had appeared the more vulnerable throughout the third set, but she quickly opened up a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak, taking it to 5-1 with a second serve ace.

She brought up three championship points at 6-4, but Henin fought back again to make it 6-6.

However Henin then served a double fault and this time Clijsters made no mistake, taking her 36th title with her fourth match point.


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