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January 31, 2004

Justine Henin


THE MODERATOR: Questions in English for Justine, please.

Q. What kind of relief you had when she double-faulted twice when she put you 4-all?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It help me for sure to stay in the match because I was feeling very nervous at this point. And it helped me because I was feeling bad, you know. It was the same thing like in the second set. And then this break at 4-3 gave me the (inaudible) that I needed to close the match. Finally I could serve pretty good in the last game. That's been a very emotional match in every way because I was leading, I was playing well, and then always on the important moments Kim played well. I was feeling under pressure all the time, and the crowd gave her a lot of support, which I understand perfectly. But it's not been an easy one. I'm feeling very, very happy right now. It's as nice as the first one (smiling).

Q. Were you sometimes thinking about Paris when you were up 6-2, 4-1?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: No, it's from the past, you know. I just want to stay focused, you know, point after point. That wasn't easy today. Really, in the third set, I thought that I can close this match because I had my chances already in the second set and in the third set again. It was these moments where Kim was, you know, the best, because she wasn't missing anymore. I was feeling she was mentally very strong at this point. So I've been -- it's been very close at the end.

Q. What do you think caused the nerves in the second set? Was it because she was still going for every shot? Was it because of the sense of the occasion?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: That's very hard to say, you know. I was leading 4-2, 15-love, then missed an easy forehand. But, you know, a match could turn very quickly, that's what we saw. But like I said, Kim likes these kind of moments, you know. She's playing her best tennis, because she had anything to lose at this point of the match. And I was feeling very tense, I was feeling very nervous to close the match. That wasn't easy at all. But when I had to, on the important points, and I kept fighting, you know. At the beginning of the third set, it was really important today, it was one of the keys to help me come through.

Q. How crucial to you was that overrule in the third set?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Well, it was important because it was a break, you know. And I needed to take one game in this point after losing three games in a row. The umpire took her responsibilities, and I think that it was a very tough call, but I think it was just long. It's very hard to say, you know. That's part of the match. For sure at 5-3 I was feeling better because I took a game. You know, it's a point in the match. But I don't know. That's hard to say.

Q. Since coming off court, have you had the chance of seeing any replays of that point?


Q. At the time, you appeared to be pretty sure of whether the ball was in or out.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I was pretty sure, yeah, for sure. That's why I said that was long, from my point of view. The umpire was pretty sure, too. So I didn't look at the image and, you know, right now I don't care too much about this.

Q. Inevitably now you're going to be asked about, "Is Wimbledon now your next target?" It's the only one that's missing from the pack.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It's gonna be another goal, for sure. I mean, if it's coming once in my career, that's great. I want to win for sure the all Grand Slams. I know it's not gonna be easy because if I played my first final of a Grand Slam in Wimbledon, I still have to improve my game on grass, especially against the strong players like Venus or Serena. I always lost against them over there because they're so powerful and I still have to, you know, to raise my level a little bit more. But for sure, it's not gonna be a priority right now because every tournament that comes I want to do my best and try to play my best tennis. But Wimbledon, this year, in the future, for sure is gonna be another goal for me.

Q. You've raised your game a great deal in the last 12 months. You're obviously very, very fit, probably the fittest girl out there. Plenty of power in your game. Do you think you've almost got to the point now where even if the Williamses start playing regularly, you could compete on even terms with them?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I don't want to have these conclusions. The only thing I know is that I'm working hard. I did work hard, again, in the summer in Florida. And I know that no other options for me. I have to be fit. I have to be 100 percents. But the others can be fit also. It can be quick and powerful. I understand that and I accept that, too. So when Venus and Serena are gonna come strong on the tour, I think it's gonna be another kind of motivation, it's gonna be very hard for myself, you know. But I believe that I'm at the top of the game right now because I worked very hard. It gives me a lot of motivation to keep going this way. No other keys for the success, you have to work the best as you can.

Q. When you started getting problems with your service in the second set, was that because of nerves or...

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, it was -- yeah, that wasn't easy, for sure. My percentage was lower than in the first set, which I was serving pretty good in the first set. Then in the end of the match, maybe on the important points. So, yeah, I was feeling nervous for sure. I have to be honest. But two years ago, or 12 months ago, this kind of match, I wasn't coming through, I wasn't winning, for sure. Today, I did. So a great evolution.

Q. You've got a big night planned, have you? Are you going out on the town? Big night planned or a quiet one?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I don't know. That's not my style too much, but I think that tonight we gonna celebrate. I don't know yet where. I'm sure I'm just gonna be with my staff and just a few people. That's my style, the way I see the things, you know, being with the most important people that are around me, that give me a lot of support. And tomorrow I am going back to Belgium. I am very happy about that, too.

Q. What are you looking forward to back in Belgium?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Oh, just seeing my family, seeing, you know, Carlos' kids, all the people that are really important for myself and to share this moment because it's a great moment and I want to be with them for sure. Sometimes I don't realize when I'm very far from home, like now, but they all woke up, it was little bit crazy day. They're all very happy for me, so I'm very excited about my comeback.

Q. In retrospect, how hard is it during these last three weeks to carry the 'No. 1 player in the world' tag, to carry the No. 1 seeding, through a Grand Slam for the first time?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It's been a lot. Maybe that's why I was so emotional today at the end, because it's been a lot of pressure in the last three weeks for me. It was in Sydney the first tournament where I was playing like No. 1 player in the world, first Grand Slam where I was seeding No. 1. That's a lot. And that's hard sometimes for people to understand that. But when you win, it's normal. If you lose, it's a big surprise. I mean, you feel it. It was a very hard beginning of the tournament for me. I didn't play well in the first few matches here at the Australian Open. Finally, when I had to, I just played my game. I've been focused on what I had to do on the court. But it's been a lot, yeah, for me. I'm tired a little bit right now. I'm gonna have a week off just to understand a little bit what happened again. You know, a lot of things happened in the last six months, which is great, and I start to realize that I work very hard and that I deserve it. So that's good.

Q. How do you see the quality of this match as compared to the ones you played with Kim at the French and US Open?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: That was a fight today. It was a three-sets match. So even if the quality wasn't the best that we can play, I totally agree, we could see that it was a big fight, you know. At the French, at the US Open, I won pretty easy, both in two sets. But today I could see that Kim wanted a lot this victory, too. And I was feeling that it was going to be very hard mission for myself - much harder than it was in Paris and US Open. But I was ready for it. I knew that playing here in Australia would give a lot of motivation to Kim, yeah.

Q. Did you feel more nervous than you did in Paris or New York?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I was feeling more nervous, yeah, for sure.

Q. Today?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, today. Because, you know, that's not easy. I understand that the crowd gave her a lot of support. But that's totally normal. But it wasn't easy because I could feel that they wanted a three-set match and they, most of them, wanted Kim to win, which is normal. I understand it. But it wasn't easy because I was feeling so close to winning my third Grand Slam as No. 1 player in the world. That was totally different. But I enjoy it, like at the French or at the US Open. That's just unbelievable. Three Grand Slams in six months is amazing for me.

Q. When you fell on your knees, was there elements of relief as well, just going back to what you were saying about coming here with all the pressure?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I was feeling free of all the pressure. I was really emotional. I usually never show my emotions, but that was too much - I had to. That was good because I probably didn't play my best tennis in this tournament, but mentally I've been strong, you know, against Davenport, again in the semis, now against Kim. So, yeah, I was really, really satisfied at the end.

Q. With all these external things going on around you, pressure, carrying the title of No. 1, is this the hardest game you've ever played?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, for sure. For sure. This kind of situation is not easy to deal with, and today I could feel it, you know. We were fighting for No. 1, again, today. But that's not the main thing, that's not the most important thing right now. That was a tough match, very hard, especially the emotions, for Kim and for me. We could see that both of us were really nervous. There's always a winner. You know, that's bad in sports.

End of FastScripts….

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