Henin tips Sharapova for title after Open pounding | sports | Hindustan Times
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Henin tips Sharapova for title after Open pounding

sports Updated: Jan 22, 2008 20:00 IST
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World number one and top seed Justin Henin backed Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open title on Tuesday after the fifth seed ended her 32-match winning streak in devastating fashion.

The Russian made a mockery of Henin's status as the most dominant women's player for a generation as she tore apart the Belgian to win their quarter final 6-4, 6-0.

The glamorous fifth seed not only inflicted Henin's first defeat since July last year, but dished out one of the heaviest losses in the Belgian's career.

It was the 25-year-old's first 6-0 drubbing in six years, the first time she has failed to win less than five games since 2002 and her first loss in two sets since 2006.

"She just did everything better than me today," a shellshocked Henin conceded.

"She served consistently, she was much more aggressive and looked it like it was her day and probably her tournament. She's in great shape."

Henin predicted Sharapova, who will meet Serbian third seed Jelena Jankovic in the semi-final, would go on to win the season-opening Grand Slam and make amends for her humiliating loss to Serena Williams in last year's final.

"I think so, but a lot of things can happen," Henin said. "She looks like she's the player who is really confident now, and she has a great chance to do it, I think."

Henin said her movement was restricted by a knee inflammation but insisted that was not the reason for her poor performance.

"I was really concerned about my knee for a few days," she said. "So I was a bit anxious, because I knew I wasn't really 100 percent. Even if it's not an excuse about what happened on the court, because she was much better than me."

The inglorious exit continues Henin's painful associations with the season-opening Grand Slam, which she won in 2004.

She missed the 2005 Australian Open with injury, controversially withdrew from the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo with a stomach complaint and was again absent last year as her marriage broke down.

The one-sided nature of the loss also shatters the aura she built in a stellar 2007, when she won the US and French Opens, becoming the most dominant player on the women's circuit since Steffi Graf and the first to win more than five million dollars in prize money in a year.

She spoke earier in the tournament about the pressure she faced trying to maintain the winning streak.

"What I did last year was amazing, it was unique," she said.

"It's been the best season of my career. It brought me probably at another level, other expectations also.

"But you have to start again all the time. Every tournament is different. And every day you have to give your best. And you have to pay attention to all the little details."