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WORLD SPORT

Petrova battles back to beat Henin

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Petrova shows her delight after securing her fourth title of the season.

BERLIN, Germany -- Nadia Petrova announced herself as a serious French Open contender after she scored a shock win over Justine Henin-Hardenne to secure her fourth title of the year in Berlin.

Petrova showed great stamina to win 4-6 6-4 7-5, relieving the Belgian of her German Open title two weeks before her attempt to do the same to her French Open title.

It was Petrova's 15th successive win on clay and extended her total of wins for the year to 33, more than any other player on the WTA Tour.

"There was more pressure in this match," Petrova said. "I think I won because I showed good concentration and at the end all I could do was fight."

She should also become the number one Russian, almost certainly overtaking Maria Sharapova for the world number three slot in the next rankings.

"That's a great feeling," Petrova said. "But I want to go on from this and achieve many more things. My greatest dream is a Grand Slam (title)."

Her improvement has come from self-belief after starting to win titles, and a greater willingness to come to the net, increasing her tactical options greatly.

Although it was a clay court match, both players were prepared to come to the net in the first half of the contest, and the majority of the games were won by the server.

But Henin-Hardenne did not start with the ferocity she had summoned in her semifinal with Amelie Mauresmo.

She was forced on to the defensive several times as tall Russian made frequent net approaches, reaching 2-0 in forthright style.

However, Petrova played a disappointing second service game, missing a smash and two ground strokes, dropping it to love, and relinquishing the initiative.

Henin then held serve, and stepped up a gear by breaking for 3-2, finishing with a brilliant inside out forehand winner.

Two aces followed in the next Henin service game, to emphasise a consolidation of the break. But just when it seemed Henin might push on to victory in the second set she was not quite able to break through missing two break chances in the fourth and eighth games.

Petrova seemed to take encouragement from that and she broke Henin to love and levelled at one set all.

The third set was a topsy-turvy affair, with more of the points being decided by mistakes than before, and the advantage swinging backwards and forwards.

Henin had to save three break points to avoid going 0-2 down, ballooned a sitter of a smash to miss a chance of getting Petrova at love-40, and then slipped to 1-3 down, serving a double fault in that game.

Henin was also less dominant in the baseline exchanges rallies than she had been, although she broke back at once, and reached 3-3 after surviving four deuces on her service game.

Petrova struck the killer blow from the baseline.

It happened when Henin was serving at 5-6, 15-30. She appeared to have the point won, having spread Petrova from side to side, but did not finish it off with a volley.

It allowed the Russian to sprint across and pull off an improbable forehand counter-drive, surprising Henin and setting up a drive-kill on the next ball.

That earned Petrova a match point which she won with relentless forehand to forehand cross court driving, until Henin risked straightening the diagonal out and put a forehand down the line wide.

It was her last shot before defending her French Open title, which she says, she still feels she is well prepared to achieve.

"I never felt a hundred percent today. I felt I was too far from the baseline," she said. "Some days it's harder than others to do what you have to do."

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