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March 21, 2004

Justine Henin


THE MODERATOR: Questions for your 2004 Indian Wells Champion, Pacific Life Open.

Q. You started off awfully strong. You overwhelmed her. Was that your plan, to jump on top of her early?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It was important for me to start the match pretty good. You know, I broke her the first game of the match. So I was moving her a lot. I was in confidence. Even if I wasn't serving well, I was feeling that my game was almost perfect at this point of the match. The beginning of the match was important for me just to let her know that I was there, you know, to play my game, being a lot aggressive. So it was really important.

Q. The temperature was 104 degrees out there today. Was the heat a factor at all?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I can tell you, it was tough. I feel now I'm feeling down a little bit because it's been really tough. I was feeling that maybe in the first set, she was having a few problems with the heat. Then I had at the beginning of the second set, I was feeling down. After the long rallies, we needed a little bit of time to recover. That's really hard. But it's part of the game. That's why tennis is beautiful, because you need all these factors to make it a great event.

Q. In the second set, seventh game, it was 3-3, you were down two service points. You went boom, boom, 114 miles an hour serve. Is that the turning point of the second set?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yes, that was a very important game. I broke her back to come to 3-All. A couple of unforced errors. It was 15-40. I served an ace. I went to the net. I played really well at this point. That was really important, this seventh game of the match. Then I kept my serve after I was leading 5-4. Five match points. I did everything perfect in this game. I did some good lobs, good dropshots. It was a good fight, probably the best game of the match. She was serving perfectly on the match points. I've been patient. I waited for an opportunity, and I took it.

Q. Do you know why the heat rule was not enforced, you were allowed to play, seeing matches were stopped in Melbourne? Was it the humidity factor was not high enough? What do you know about it?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I don't know. But it was just feeling terrible heat today.

THE MODERATOR: Just to clarify, the heat rule is when they split sets, WTA rule. Australia, that was an Australian Open policy.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It's different rules. Today the heat was, if we had to split, we could take the time out. I can tell you that today it's been probably the most difficult conditions I ever played in the past, maybe harder than in Australia. It was really tough.

Q. Someone said it was 104. One of the reports we got was 116 on the court.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, it's probably true. Yeah, I think that's what I heard. On the court was feeling just unbelievable. It was hard for both of us, I mean for the fans, too, because it's really hard conditions. Happy that it's been a two-sets match.

Q. Did you express any concern yesterday when you found out that you were going to go first at noon?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I think, like I said, it's part of the game. You know it's for both players. I think we saw a really good match of tennis. So it hasn't been, you know, a huge deal. It's been tough, but we used to it. We need to be -- I think that we physically ready. I agree that it's tough, but for me when I knew that I had to play at noon, it wasn't a problem at all.

Q. Were you nervous when you woke up this morning?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Again? No, I told you, I explain, I'm nervous before every match.

Q. Except when you're scheduled at night, right?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah. He is giving me a hard time (laughter). Yeah, I was nervous when I woke up this morning, for sure. I like the finals day. That's what I love the most in tennis. I think I love competition. I love these feelings before a final. It helps me to be at my best level.

Q. Speaking of competition, do you feel that you actually had any during this tournament?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: For sure. I mean, you know, it's been the same in every match: just a player in front of me that wants to beat me. The competition is there every day. I had a lot of trouble during my quarterfinal, then a lot of trouble today. I can tell you, it's not easy. Maybe it looks like by the results, but it hasn't been for sure this week.

Q. Compare today's match to Melbourne when you played Kim. Do you think you were playing at a better level today or was Melbourne, the fact that you had stiffer competition in the final?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I think that in Melbourne we could feel a lot of tension during the final. Probably I played a higher level today during the whole match. In Melbourne, I played unbelievable well until 4-2 in the second, then we could see the nerves. It was a really tense match. It's different. It was a Grand Slam. It's totally different here, even if it's a big event. I was feeling much more relaxed today, for sure.

Q. You must take great satisfaction in the way that you won today. It seemed like you were really able to do pretty much everything that you wanted to do out there in a final against Lindsay.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Oh, yeah, I did everything I had to. I was aggressive when I had to. I had time to organize my game. I was moving Lindsay a lot. I know that she doesn't like it too much. Yeah, I was feeling really comfortable on the court. I wasn't serving well in the first set. But my serve helped me on the important points, like at 3-All in the second. Yeah, we could see everything in this match: really good rallies, really good serves, good lobs on the important points. It's been I think a very good tennis.

Q. With the exception of one game, all the broken services came when the server was serving on that one side of the court looking into the sun. How difficult was the sun?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Yeah, it wasn't easy. It was also in the head, you know, when you know that the sun is there. It's tough. I mean, you have the sun in your eyes. It's not easy for sure. I had more trouble on this side of the court. That's not easy. But like the heat, like everything, it's part of the game for both players.

Q. What does it mean to win this tournament?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It means a lot of things. It's a big tournament, a huge event. I never played well here in the past. I was excited about coming back to see if things were going to be different this year. And it's been. I'm a different player. I'm a better player, better person. I've changed a lot. We could see it on the court. Maybe in the past when I wasn't playing well in the tournament, I was feeling already under pressure before going there. And here this week, it's been different. I just try to stay focus on my game every match, and it work pretty good.

Q. What have you found to be most enjoyable, the fact that you had to fight to get through those Grand Slam titles last year to reach No. 1, or is it the fact that you've managed to win another Slam and stay at No. 1?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It's been three Grand Slams, three different feelings. Roland Garros has been the emotional one because it was the first one. Then the US Open, it was the confirmation. Then at the Australian Open, it's been amazing, maybe the most significant one for me. It's been maybe the most beautiful one because after everything I did last year, I started the year pretty good again, and it means that I deserve to be at this level. It's not a coincidence, it hasn't been luck, it's just that I worked pretty hard, and I won so many matches. I have a lot of fun in every match, you know. Even if I'm No. 1 right now, every time I go on the court, I just try to enjoy my tennis and to win every match I have to play.

Q. Have you begun thinking about possibly winning a Grand Slam, all the Grand Slam events this year?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: You know, dreaming about this is not going to help me to achieve that. Every match is a goal. Every tournament is a goal. My main goal, my next one, is going to be the French Open. You need to go step by step. I realize that doing that is really something really hard to achieve. You know, I'll just try to stay focused on what I have to do and not dreaming about all these things.

Q. There is no way you would change your mind and go to Miami?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Not at all, no. I never had regrets when I took this kind of decisions. I mean, in life you need a line, you need to follow it. That's very important. In my life, in my career, that's what I do. That's my pace right now.

Q. It doesn't seem like watching you on court you have very many weaknesses. Do you find any weaknesses in your own game right now?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I can improve, for sure. I still have a lot of things to learn. I'm still very young. I can get more experience. This way that I played in the last three matches, you know, really aggressive, is the game that I have to play. But I still can improve in this part of my game also within my concentration. I played a great match. At the beginning of the second set I lost a little bit. Today it was okay, but maybe in next matches, it's going to be expensive for me. I need, yeah, to stay consistent and really solid. But I can improve, for sure. That's what my coach tells me every day (smiling).

Q. How much joy do you really take in victories, "I'm going to celebrate today, but now I have to focus on going back to Tampa and working out, thinking about the clay"?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: I can tell you I'm very happy right now, very, very happy. After the Grand Slam, one of the best one, for sure. And I will enjoy it for sure the whole day today, and then tomorrow I'll travel to Saddle Brook. I will see my husband there, my coach's family. We will enjoy that all together. But I know there is another tournament in two weeks, so it's not the end of the life. It's just another victory, and then I'll be back at work in two days. I'm very happy to be back and play on clay court. I'm looking forward to play in Amelia Island. Just step by step you build your victory first, in your practice. In Saddle Brook, I know it's important for me to go back there and enjoy it.

Q. As a perfectionist, can you be happy if you lose a match?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Happy, no. I mean, I can tell that I did everything possible in the match, but when you lose, it means that you did a few things wrong or maybe the other player was simply the best. Sometimes you know your best level, but you need to accept that. You need to accept that and say, "Today I didn't play my best tennis." In the past for me was difficult to be criticized and just to accept that today I wasn't at my best level. But it's okay. I'll have another chance later.

Q. Who is the bigger critic, you or Carlos, of your own game?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It depends. I think that we such a good pair. I mean, we understand each other perfectly. But I think he is the most critical one, for sure. I don't know. Sometimes he's telling me to be more tolerant with yourself, but sometimes he is very critical. I know why he is like this, and he helps me to be the player that I am right now.

Q. Does it give you any satisfaction that this dominance or near dominance that you have on the tour now, many times is against players who are much bigger than you?

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: It's a lot of satisfaction because I was feeling two or three years ago that I would never be at their level. I was a good Top 10. I was four or five. I needed something more to be real in the Top 3 and then to become No. 1. I just started to believe in myself. I decided to change my attitude, just believe in my tennis. You know the fact that I went to Saddle Brook changed a lot of things in my life. Maybe it's hard to understand for you. But just that with Pat, he has a great mentality. I have great mentality now. He helps me a lot, just believe in myself, believe in me physically and mentally. That's what I do. So it's a lot of satisfaction, for sure.

Q. Does that help you with the fighting spirit? You always were a fighter.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Oh, it does. I'm a better fighter than I was in the past, for sure. I know impossible is nothing for me now.

End of FastScripts….

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