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Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo in final

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Henin-Hardenne celebrates her passage into a third Wimbledon final.

LONDON, England -- Justine Henin-Hardenne hit back from breaks of service down in both sets to win the all-Belgian women's semifinal against Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon on Thursday.

The French Open champion played with typical tenacity to wrap up a 6-4 7-6 victory in 90 minutes.

The third-seeded Henin-Hardenne will face No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, in the final.

Mauresmo squandered a 3-1, 40-love lead against serve in the second set before beating 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, 6-3 3-6 6-2

Saturday's encounter will be a rematch of this year's Australian Open final in which Henin-Hardenne quit because of stomach pain at 6-1 2-0 down, handing the Frenchwoman her first Grand Slam title. .

Henin-Hardenne clinched victory over Clijsters on her second match point with a trademark crosscourt backhand to close out the second set tiebreak.

It was another Wimbledon disappointment for second seed Clijsters who has now lost to her arch-rival in five successive grand slam encounters.

Henin-Hardenne has now reached the finals of all three grand slams this season, losing the Australian Open final to Mauresmo when she pulled out through illness, before claiming the French title.

"It was tough but I played the important points well," Henin-Hardenne told the BBC after her victory in a perfect summation of the match.

Following a tentative opening by both women, Clijsters seized the opportunity to break to lead 4-3 in the opening set.

But after taking a 40-love lead on her service in the next game her confidence evaporated as Henin-Hardenne ran off three games in the trot to claim the opener in 37 minutes.

With the third seed in control it came as a surprise when she double-faulted to hand give Clijsters an early break in the second set, consolidated by holding service to lead 3-1 with a thumping forehand.

Back came Henin-Hardenne to claim three games in a row but this time Clijsters dug in and producing her best tennis of the match broke again to love and served for the set at 6-5.

Henin-Hardenne was not be be denied as he upped the pace again and an errant forehand by Clijsters signaled a tiebreak which proved largely one-way traffic.

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Jubilant Mauresmo was delighted to make the final at the fourth attempt.

World number one Mauresmo led Sharapova 6-3 3-1 before the 2004 champion reeled off five successive games to force a third set in an enthralling semi-final tussle on Center Court.

Top seed Mauresmo recovered her rhythm in the decider, though, and greeted victory by tearing round the court in jubilant relief.

"It was so tight in the second set, I was just thinking about getting to the final at the fourth attempt," said Mauresmo.

"I was relieved at the end because I was able in the third set to come back stronger and change the momentum. I finally get to play for the trophy and I will try to take my chances."

Fourth seed Sharapova has now lost five grand slam semifinals since winning the 2004 Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old. She was beaten by American Venus Williams in last year's Wimbledon semifinals.

Mauresmo had won both their previous encounters on hardcourt and her superior volleying ability was immediately evident.

Both women served beautifully at the start of the match and an entranced Center Court crowd had to wait until the eighth game for the first break point to arrive.

Sharapova fell 0-40 behind and although she ed deuce with three big first serves, Mauresmo provoked successive errors to seal the break at the fourth attempt.

The Australian Open champion earned three set points in the next game and after squandering the first two, took the third when Sharapova ended a nervy rally with an over-hit forehand that dropped beyond the baseline.

Mauresmo looked to be in total control when she broke Sharapova's serve in the first game of the second set.

Brittleness

The 26-year-old's career has been plagued by mental brittleness, though, and from 3-1 up and 40-0 up on Sharapova's serve, her nerve and with it her timing seemed to desert her.

Mauresmo lost successive service games, the second with a nervous double-fault, and Sharapova took five games in a row to level the match.

The Russian, delivering her trademark shriek with every shot, looked the likelier winner at that point.

Somehow Mauresmo recovered her serving rhythm and, defending doggedly, took advantage of the teenager's errors to break twice in a row and lead 4-0.

This time the Frenchwoman held her mind and body together and sealed a place in her third grand slam final when Sharapova slung a forehand long.

Mauresmo's win meant she retained her number one ranking ahead of Clijsters.

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