MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams loves a good underdog story and understood that most of the crowd was behind Justine Henin.
All that sentiment was put aside during their Australian Open women's final once she heard an insult from the stands, a crack that went right to the heart of all athletes.
"I think everyone was for Justine (on Saturday)," Williams said. "But you know what really helped me out? This one guy was like, 'You can beat her, Justine; she's not that good.'
"I looked at that guy, and I was like, 'You don't know me,' " Williams continued, wagging her finger. "I think I won all the games after that because that's totally rude."
Trailing 1-0 in the third set, Williams leaned on her big, deadly, accurate serve to dish out 12 aces, then broke Henin's serve three straight games. She left little doubt she is the best women's player in the world right now in winning her fifth Australian Open title, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Henin, unranked and in her second tournament and first major since coming back from a 20-month retirement, fell one win short of emulating fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' impressive Grand Slam post-retirement comeback at the U.S. Open in September.
"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, 27. "I thought it would never happen again. It's been almost perfect. Just the last step, I couldn't make it."
With her right thigh and left knee heavily taped and hampered by several aches and pains, Williams had her backers in the crowd, sister Venus among them. But the knocks gave her the most motivation.
"That is a part of being me. Like, hearing things like that, that inspires me to work harder, do better," Williams said. "I feel like I have things to prove."
Henin rediscovered the magic that had propelled her to seven Grand Slam singles titles before she left the game in March 2008. She matched shots and grit with the champion in ways Williams said she had not seen of late.
"She took me to the umpteenth level," Williams said. "She clearly hasn't, like, lost a step at all since she's been gone."
The biggest winner perhaps was the women's game. The last time a Grand Slam women's final went three sets was at Wimbledon in 2006, when Henin lost to Amelie Mauresmo. Henin's return, as well as that of Clijsters, puts some heat on the Williams sisters and adds sizzle to the sport.
Bryan brothers win another doubles title
Twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who live in Wesley Chapel, won their fourth Australian Open doubles title, defeating Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.
The top-seeded Americans picked up their eighth Grand Slam doubles title. They have won the Australian title four of the past five years. They lost in the final the two previous years.
In the second set, Zimonjic and Nestor were down 5-2 in the tiebreaker before winning five straight points to take it.
"Maybe another final, a smaller tournament, that could have broken us," Bob Bryan said. "But when you play two weeks here and it's a Grand Slam final, you don't let anything get you down.
"I thought actually our energy went up in the third. We kind of had out-of-body experiences … just got across the finish line somehow."