Henin-Hardenne moves on | SummitDaily.com
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Henin-Hardenne moves on

Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne returns the ball to Belarus' Anastasiya Yakimova in their second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Thursday June 1, 2006. Henin-Hardenne won 6-2, 7-5. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
AP | AP

PARIS ” Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne celebrated her 24th birthday Thursday with a second-round victory at the French Open, overcoming three set points in the second set to beat Anastasiya Yakimova 6-2, 7-5.

Yakimova, a 19-year-old Belarussian, was on the verge of forcing a third set serving at 5-4, 40-love. Henin-Hardenne won the next nine points and closed out the victory when Yakimova hit a wild forehand on match point.

The center-court match was played in a drizzle on another chilly day at Roland Garros, with temperatures again in the 50s.

“We hope for better tennis for everyone,” Henin-Hardenne said. “It was difficult to play good tennis today. The ball was just too heavy at the end of the match.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt also won before a rain delay of 1 hour, 50 minutes, which backed up the schedule and forced some play to be postponed or suspended until Friday. Among those who never took court were defending champion Rafael Nadal, No. 2-seeded Kim Clijsters and No. 12 Martina Hingis.

Henin-Hardenne, seeded fifth, advanced despite losing serve four times and committing 43 unforced errors. She saved one set point with a lob winner, and another with a drop shot that sent Yakimova skidding to one knee, unable to reach the ball.

After the match, fans serenaded Henin-Hardenne with “Happy Birthday.”

“I am very, very serious, and any celebration will be calm,” the Belgian said. “But it’s great to be here in Paris to celebrate my 24th birthday.”

She’s bidding for her third title in four years.

Hewitt overcame a slow start to beat Mathieu Montcourt 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. The 14th-seeded Hewitt, who has been hampered by calf and ankle injuries, was playing only his third match since early April.

“The ankle is still not 100 percent,” Hewitt said. “I’ve played with pain before, and this is just another case of it.”

A two-time quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, Hewitt missed the tournament last year with a rib injury and has played little on clay the past two years. The Australian will next face No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty, who overcame Ivo Karlovic’s 31 aces to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 6-2.

No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic matched his best showing at Roland Garros, reaching the third round by beating Oscar Hernandez 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-2.


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