Melbourne, Jan 26 (Calcutta Tube) Justine Henin moved closer to regaining her place at the top of tennis as the unseeded seven-time Grand Slam champion reached the semifinals of the Australian Open with a 7-6(3), 7-5 win over Nadia Petrova Tuesday.
Henin is competing in only her second event since her return and is lined up for a semi-final against China’s Zheng Jie, who beat Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3.
‘Today was my first match in the sun actually since I was in Australia,’ said Henin, 27. ‘We were playing under the roof in Brisbane.’
‘Here I’ve played almost every match in night session. And it was quite cloudy the other day when I played in the day. It was really difficult to find a good rhythm.
‘I felt energy in a few games,’ said Henin, who admitted ‘I lost the intensity a little bit, especially in the beginning of the second set. I just tried to stay calm.’
‘I came back in the second set and played much more aggressive tennis.’
Zheng is to play for the second time in a Grand Slam semi-final after reaching that stage at Wimbledon in 2008.
‘For me, this is amazing,’ world number 35 Zheng said. ‘It was a tough match because she beat Maria Sharapova in the first round.
‘I thought I have a big chance for the semi-final. I started a little bit nervous, but I did well, winning in two sets.’
Henin, who retired as world number one in 2008 but made a return to the sport at the start of January, showed that she has lost little of the form which took her to the top of the game before her sudden retirement.
Henin was able to overcome Petrova, who had been on a giant-killing spree with wins over Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters (US Open) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (Roland Garros).
Henin was pleased to get off the court in good time, giving her more opportunity to prepare.
‘Now it’s good because it’s early, I’ll have good recovery and two good nights. That’s what I need. But it’s just a great feeling to be in the semis of the first Grand Slam I play since I’m back.’