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Cynical Serena ready for Henin rematch

sports Updated: Jun 04, 2007 05:51 IST

AFP
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Serena Williams made a tearful exit from the centre-court the last time she played Justine Henin at the French Open, but she has vowed that will never happen again.

They last played in the 2003 semi-finals after Williams had won the four previous Grand Slam tournaments and was a hot favourite to defend her title in Paris.

But after the Parisian crowd swung firmly behind French-speaking underdog Henin and jeered the American, she lost in three sets and exited with tears in her eyes.

In the four years that have passed since that day, the 25-year-old Williams has had her ups and downs encompassing the shooting death of a sister, a succession of injuries and subsequent loss of form.

"I've definitely grown up a lot, matured a lot and been through a lot of things since 03 and I'm just maybe more cynical," she said.

"I've been through death, I had surgery - I've been through a lot.

Williams started the year slumped down at 95th in the world rankings, but took the world of tennis by storm winning the Australian Open and demolishing Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

She took some stick for her rounded shape in Melbourne, but has worked off some excess weight since then and arrived in Paris for her first tilt at the French Open since 2004 fighting fit and full of motivation.

Once again though it is Henin who stands in the way as the two gear up for Tuesday's quarter-final from which many feel the eventual winner will emerge.

Williams has won the only two matches they have played since 2003 in the semi-finals of Wimbledon the same year and in three hard-fought sets in the final of the Miami tournament earlier this year.

But clay is her least favourite surface while Henin has been untouchable on it in recent years and is on an 18-match unbeaten streak at Roland Garros encompassing the last two titles.

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