MELBOURNE, Australia — Justine Henin has been eliminated in the third round of the Australian Open, losing 6-4, 7-6 (8) to Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday just a year after reaching the final in her comeback to Grand Slam tennis.
It was Henin’s first loss in a major to Kuznetsova, the former French and U.S. Open champion, and her worst run at a Grand Slam event since Wimbledon in 2005.
Henin was only weeks into a comeback from a career break from the tour when she lost the final last year to Serena Williams, the third time in four appearances that she’d reached the championship match at Melbourne. Her comeback season was derailed when she injured her right elbow at Wimbledon and didn’t play again in 2010.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner put up quite a fight in this one.
Kuznetsova twice had chances to serve out the match but Henin broke her both times. In a fluctuating tiebreaker, Kuznetsova was ahead 6-4 before Henin sent a service return skidding down the line and took the next point. She hit a forehand into the net to give Kuznetsova another match point at 8-7 but again hit a powerful forehand service return winner.
Henin finally lost when she sent a forehand wide, giving Kuznetsova only her third win in 19 head-to-head meetings dating to 2003. She had nine double-faults and 41 unforced errors in an uncharacteristically sloppy performance.
“I know I’m not 100 per cent — I knew it before walking on the court,” she said. “That’s why I say there are no excuses.
“I decided to play not being 100 per cent. It’s been difficult in the last three days on my elbow and I just did everything that I could that it will be OK, but it wasn’t enough.”
The 2004 Australian Open champion said Kuznetsova was more aggressive, went to the net and hit more winners, so she deserved the victory.
“There are some days that are harder than others for a lot of reasons, physical, mental, your adversary also, sometimes a style of game that is harder to manage, the pressure,” she said. “But obviously I wanted to play, I wanted to win. I wanted to go as far as possible.”
In the previous match on centre court, Caroline Wozniacki beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-3 to avenge last week’s loss in a tuneup tournament.
Then she turned the tables on the media. Hearing she’d come across as a bit boring in recent interviews, she opened a post-match news conference with a funny monologue, saying she knew what would be asked so she’d just give her stock answers one-by-one. Then she invited questions on “more interesting” topics, such as the piano, cricket, soccer and what she’s looking for in a boyfriend.
Wozniacki, playing her first Grand Slam as the world No. 1, is seeking her first major win.
“I am happy I got the revenge since I lost to her in Sydney last week; It was not an easy match; She went out there, she was really on fire; You know, I’m happy to be through to the next round,” the 20-year-old Danish player worked through the answers to the usual questions.
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone also moved on, beating Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-0, 7-6 (2). No. 9 Li Na of China, who reached the semifinals here last year before losing in two tiebreak sets against Williams, advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
In men’s doubles, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and partner Max Mirnyi of Belarus won their second-round match, defeating Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and Germany’s Philipp Marx 6-3, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic only had to play one set in the third round to advance. The 2008 Australian champion was leading Viktor Troicki 6-2 when his Serbian Davis Cup teammate retired due to a stomach muscle strain.
“It’s not really the way you want to win — especially if you’re playing against one of your best friends,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately he wasn’t able to play 100 per cent of his abilities.”
Djokovic next plays No. 14 Nicolas Almagro, who beat No. 17 Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-3.
Andy Roddick overcame a slow start before powering to victory against Robin Haase, hitting 32 aces in a 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2 victory.
The eighth-seeded Roddick is seeking his second Grand Slam title nearly seven years after his first — the 2003 U.S. Open.
Haase received treatment on his right ankle early in the first set, getting it heavily taped after appearing to stumble on a shot. The trainer was back out at the end of the set for Haase, who broke Roddick’s serve twice.
The Dutchman, despite the injury, made the shot of the tournament so far, chasing down a Roddick lob and hitting a flick backhand over the net while facing the back of the court. Haase won the point two shots later.
“He was playing great early on,” Roddick said. “The biggest thing was just to turn it around in the second set.”