Henin in a league of her own

Serena Williams may be the talk of the town at this year’s tournament, but it is – in fact – her older sister Venus who is among the most decorated former champions in Dubai.

By Alex Leach

Published: Tue 19 Feb 2013, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:50 AM

Serena – who is the holder of a highly impressive 15 Grand Slam titles, three WTA Championships and an Olympic gold medal in singles alone – hasn’t played in the emirate since 2009, when she lost in the semi-finals 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3) to her sibling.

Justine Henin, who had arguably the finest single-handed backhand in women’s tennis history, won the Dubai title four times — AFP

That year, Venus went on to win the competition outright with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over France’s Virginie Razzano in the final and she followed that up by defending the title 12 months later; a 6-3, 7-5 win against Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 showpiece ensuring Venus is one of only two multiple Dubai winners ever in the event’s 13-year history on the women’s side.

Venus then has two titles from five attempts, with runs to the quarter-finals and semis in 2004 and 2002 respectively. Her worst performance was back in 2005, when she surprisingly lost in the round of 32 7-5, 7-6 (6) to Italy’s Silvia Farina Elia.

Serena meanwhile is yet to taste success at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, with her semi-final showing four years ago following another last-four appearance back in 2005. The 31-year-old will naturally be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky in 2013 as she bids to add to her haul of individual accolades and trophies.

Even Venus’ achievements to date though are surpassed in the record books by Belgian Justine Henin’s four titles in five years between 2003 and 2007. Regarded as having one of the best single-handed backhands in the history of tennis, Henin prevailed in 2003 (bt the USA’s Monica Seles 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5), 2004 (bt Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (3), 6-3), 2006 (bt Russia’s Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-2) and 2007 (bt France’s Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 7-5).

American Lindsay Davenport’s solitary 2005 success in beating Serb Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 splits Henin’s record run of a formidable four right down the middle.

Other notable names on the competition’s roll of honour include: Switzerland’s Martina Hingis (bt France’s Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 6-4 in 2001), Mauresmo (bt countryman Sandrine Testud 6-4, 7-6 (3) in 2002), Russia’s Elena Dementieva (bt Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2008), Dane Caroline Wozniacki (bt Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-3 in 2011) and the Polish reigning champion Agnieszka Radwanska (bt Germany’s Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-4 in 2012).

With an enviable track record like that, it’s hardly surprising the tournament is a symbol of the immense pride for tournament organisers, with the executive vice chairman of tournament owners Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, saying: “I’m thrilled with our Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. It’s grown from nothing to what it is now.”

“From the very first ATP event held at the Aviation Club in a temporary stadium in 1993, we are proud to say that – as a result of the support of the Government of Dubai – we have achieved our ambition of establishing the tournament as a key event on the world tour.

“With the opening of the new stadium in 1996 and the addition of the women’s event in 2001, the Championships have now become a popular and prestigious tournament on the international tennis calendar.”


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