Serena Williams Beats Justine Henin for 5th Australian Title

Serena Williams won her fifth Australian Open championship here Saturday in a three-set thriller that showcased her big serve, her ballistic forehand and most of all an unquenchable will to win that she needed every bit of to turn back Justine Henin, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

It was a 12th Grand Slam title for Williams, who matches Billie Jean King’s total and is halfway to the record 24 major titles held by Margaret Court, who was here at Melbourne Park to hand over the championship trophy to Williams.

“I’d like to congratulate Justine for having a fabulous tournament. She gave me all I could handle tonight,” said Williams, who won her previous four titles here in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, New York Times reports.

Unranked and unseeded, Justine Henin is returning to where Williams still is. Henin left the game 20 months ago as its No. 1, but after much shuffling of the deck chairs, that vacancy has been filled. Henin is back as a challenger, and a brave and worthy one, but there could only be one Australian Open champion and, last night, it was Williams.

Perhaps the American is lucky to be playing here at all, after somehow escaping a grand slam suspension after her expletive-laden tirade last year at Flushing Meadows. She was fined heavily, yes, but it scarcely counts as a punishment when one considers that last night's cheque for $A2.1 million takes her career earnings past $US30 million, Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Today’s final was the 14th career meeting between Williams and Henin, whose rivalry dates to the 2001 U.S. Open. Williams now leads 8-6 after winning their first matchup in a Grand Slam final.

Williams, playing with bandages on her right thigh and left calf, was back on Rod Laver Arena after yesterday pairing with sister Venus to win the women’s doubles title for the second year in a row.

Henin, 27, was the second straight wild-card entry from Belgium to reach a Grand Slam women’s final. Kim Clijsters won September’s U.S. Open in her first major after returning from retirement. Until Clijsters’s run to the title in New York, no wild card had gone beyond the semifinals at a major.

"It’s been very emotional two weeks for me, I thought it would never happen again," Henin said after accepting the runner-up trophy. “I’ll see you next year," Bloomberg reports.

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