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Aus Open loss a big disappointment for Henin

An ailing Justine Henin-Hardenne had a gut feeling from the moment she stepped on court that she wasn't going to win the Australian Open final.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 11:58 IST

An ailing Justine Henin-Hardenne had a gut feeling from the moment she stepped on court that she wasn't going to win the Australian Open final.

The Belgian was up for much of the night with cramping stomach pains, which she said was a side-effect of increasing the dosage of the anti-inflammatory drugs she is taking for an injured shoulder.

The four-time Grand Slam winner decided to give it her best shot against Amelie Mauresmo, but it was not to be.

"It's been a few days I wasn't feeling well. My stomach was very upset and then last night I didn't sleep a lot because it got worse and worse," said the eighth seed after throwing in the towel when trailing 1-6, 0-2.

"Two weeks now I had to take anti-inflammatories for my shoulder, and that killed me a little bit. Pretty sensitive. But I had to for my shoulder.

"I had to double the dose of my anti-inflammatories the last few days because my shoulder was painful, and it's probably I just had a very bad reaction to that."

Henin-Hardenne, who broke down in tears, said the illness, which is unrelated to the viral infection which sidelined her in 2004, sapped her of energy and she was unable to move at her optimum around the court.

"I had no legs today. I couldn't move. When the stomach is so upset and so inflamed you just don't have any energy," she said.

"I knew at the beginning of the match I couldn't win it. I just really tried to stay in the match, but there was no chance for me."

The loss shattered her 20-match winning streak in Australia that included her 2004 and 2006 campaigns at the Open and the Sydney International. She missed last year through injury.

The 23-year-old Belgian had been the bookies' favourite to win the tournament after convincing wins to the final over top seed Lindsay Davenport and world number four Maria Sharapova.

She categorised it as one of the biggest disappointments of her career.

"Oh, it's one of the biggest because I don't know what is harder: to lose even when you're playing well and just you lose, or just when you have to retire like that," she said.

"I think it's very disappointing because I was playing so well (in earlier matches), and I had a lot of good chances to win here. When you lose that like this, it's pretty hard."

"If I would have kept playing and continued, maybe I would have injured something else, so that was the best decision, even if it was very hard for me."

Despite her disappointment, Henin-Hardenne was gracious in defeat, saying Mauresmo deserved to win her first Grand Slam title after so many years of trying.

"I think that she did her job perfectly. She kept the ball in the court. She felt probably I wasn't feeling good and couldn't move very quickly. So she did a good job when we see the circumstances," she said.

"It's great when you win a Grand Slam after a big fight, for sure, after a normal match. But I'm sure she enjoys this moment, and she deserves that."

Henin-Hardenne has been jinxed by illness and injury in the last two years but insisted the problem was only temporary and she would be back in action soon.

"It's not going to be a long injury or illness, it's just a question of a few days. That's why it's very frustrating," she said.

"But I know I will play tennis very soon now."

First Published: Jan 28, 2006 11:41 IST