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Henin impressed as Asian interest grinds to a halt

She pointed to the way Asians have revived the syle of hitting double-handed on both sides of the body.

sports Updated: Jan 20, 2008 14:05 IST

Asian interest in the Australian Open came to a grinding halt on Sunday, but there were encouraging words from world number one Justine Henin who said she saw plenty of talent in the region.

"Players from Asia, they all play the same way. Very talented, good hands, like (Monica) Seles had in the past," said top seed Henin after she predictably ended the tournament of Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei's with an easy 6-2, 6-2 win.

"I think we're going to see this kind of game more often probably in the future. With Beijing this year, the Olympic Games, they're all coming pretty strong, so it's interesting."

She was pointing to the way Asians have revived the syle of hitting double-handed on both sides of the body, which was made famous by Seles and is a regular feature of Hsieh and Li Na's games.

"Well, they can find great angles. In defense, they can really have a very good defense with a lot of angles. So it's better to play pretty fast, in the middle, don't give them a lot of space," said Henin.

While Hsieh's exit was expected, the defeat of Chinese number one Li Na was an unexpected blow to Asian hopes.

Li, the 24th seed, failed to deal with Polish qualifier Marta Domachowska, crashing out 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 following an encouraging start to her season, depriving her of a fourth round tie with Venus Williams.

Nevertheless, she was philosophical after winning the Australian Hradcourt Championships earlier this month and reaching the third round at Melbourne Park.

"It's been good, I've only lost once this year," said Li, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2006.

India's Sania Mirza, seeded 31, saw her hopes vanish against Venus Williams on Saturday evening, but she too was pleased with her performance here.

"Obviously, I'm a little disappointed because I felt like I had the first set and should have closed it out at 5-4," she said after losing 7-6 (7/0), 6-4 in a slugfest.

"But I take a lot of positives out of it.

Taiwan's Hsieh has been the surprise package, going through qualifying then claiming the scalp of 19th seed Sybille Bammer before hitting a brick wall when faced with Henin, a seven-time Grand Slam champion.

The 22-year-old though was ecstatic at her progress and buoyed by support from the Australian crowd.

"I feel the thing that has changed is that I feel I have more confidence on the court. That's all," said Hsieh, ranked 158 in the world but who can expect to climb up those rankings after her efforts at the season-opening Grand Slam.

"I played okay today, I was just a little bit nervous, I think, and I had a little bit more pressure because she is the world number one."

Thirteen Asian players went into the draw at Melbourne, and while the singles campaign is over, life remains in the doubles.

Taiwanese women's pair Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung are into the third round, as is Mirza with her partner Alicia Molik of Australia.

But the Chinese pairing of Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian crashed out on Sunday.

On the men's side, India's Mahesh Bhupathi and teammate Mark Knowles of Bahrain fly the flag into the fourth round.