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Henin-Hardenne wins Aussie Open

Justine Henin-Hardenne won her third Grand Slam title and extended her dominance in major finals against countrywoman Kim Clijsters with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the Australian Open women's title match.

The Belgian consistently beat Clijsters with one-fisted backhand shots, extending her unbeaten streak against Clijsters to three Grand Slam finals. The victory also assured Henin-Hardenne of keeping her No. 1 ranking.

"It was really emotional," Henin-Hardenne said. "Both of us were really nervous."

Henin-Hardenne, who beat Clijsters to win the French Open and U.S. Open titles last year, broke in the second and fourth games of the deciding set.

Clijsters broke back at 1-4, held and got back on serve with a backhand winner down the line.

In the eighth game, Clijsters sent a backhander out to give Henin-Hardenne a break point. She then smacked a forehand that originally was called good at the baseline before the chair umpire overruled after Henin-Hardenne complained.

Television replays appeared to show the ball barely catching the line.

Henin-Hardenne, serving at 5-3, closed it out in 1 hour, 47 minutes with an unreturnable first serve.

"I just tried to stay focused on every point. But game after game, I was feeling more nervous," Henin-Hardenne said. "I'm not afraid of anyone, but sometimes I'm afraid of myself. The mental part is very important. Being stronger physically helps."

Both women were in the Australian Open final for the first time, and it was Henin-Hardenne's third major title in the past four Grand Slams. Wimbledon is the only major title she hasn't won.

Only nine women have held three Grand Slam titles at one time. The most recent was Serena Williams, whose extended absence from the game has coincided with Henin-Hardenne's domination.

"I can only play against who comes to play," said Henin-Hardenne, who defeated Williams twice last year on clay before Williams left the ATP Tour in July to have knee surgery.

Henin-Hardenne appeared to be in control after taking the first set 6-3 and going up 4-2 in the second. But Clijsters ran off the next four games to take the second set 6-4, the first Henin-Hardenne dropped in the tournament.

The opening set was the first Clijsters had lost in the tournament.

Clijsters is 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, 0-3 against Henin-Hardenne and 0-1 against Jennifer Capriati (2001 French Open).

She injured her left ankle at the Hopman Cup three weeks ago and was questionable for the first Grand Slam event of the year. She was bothered by the ankle during two previous matches but showed no signs of pain during the final.

"I think she played a great final. And in the end, she was too good, so well done," Clijsters said. "This has been an incredible two weeks for me; 2{ weeks ago, I didn't think I'd be able to play."

Navratilova to retire

MELBOURNE, Australia _ Martina Navratilova suspects she never will be too far from a court once she retires. And she insists she's finished after this year.

"There is nothing that can change my mind," the 47-year-old said after advancing to the mixed doubles final with Leander Paes. "I'm happy with my decision."

Once she leaves, she would like to continue doing TV work. At Melbourne Park, she's doing double duty _ player and commentator.

"I'd love to do TV. I really enjoy it and it's fun," she said. "I think I'm getting better at it.

"But I would like to stay involved on the political side. If I can make a difference there, there are some things that need to be changed on the tour."

Navratilova and Paes beat Jonathan Erlich and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-4 in the semis and face Nenad Zimonjic and Elena Bovina, who beat Martin Rodriguez and Rita Grande 6-3. 7-6 (7-5).

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