MADRID: Justine Henin's inspired season reached a suitable climax when she successfully defended her title at the tour-ending event, the WTA Championships, her victory over Maria Sharapova completing a quartet of other notable achievements.
Tired, bothered by a bad foot, and suffering from the labours of an intense season against a relatively fresh opponent, Henin's 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 win over the comeback Russian took fully three hours and 25 minutes, the longest final since the event switched to the best of three sets in 1999.
If also made Henin the first woman ever to have earned more than US$5mil prize money in one season; the first in ten years, since Martina Hingis, to win ten titles in a season; and the first in 18 years, since Steffi Graf, to remain unbeaten post-Wimbledon.
Henin, who has recovered from a marital breakdown and ridden the emotion of a family reunion after seven years' estrangement, also achieved a personal best of 25 consecutive wins the best on the tour in seven years.
It's the last day of the season, the last match and 25 wins was great motivation. It's been fantastic and emotional and I just wanted to enjoy this last moment, said Henin, who rushed straight up into the stands to celebrate with family and back-up team.
It was nevertheless a notable effort too by Sharapova not having achieved a win since the US Open in September, struggling with a long-term shoulder problem, and now coming so close to the title.
I wasn't sure I would play here and I only came here hoping to get as many matches as possible, and this happens. It's more than I expected, she said. AFP