Henin-Hardenne makes up for lost time

Second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne shrugged off a 90-minute rain delay to open her US Open campaign with a straight-sets win.

Second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne shrugged off a 90-minute rain delay to open her US Open campaign with a straight-sets win.

This year’s French Open champion and Australian Open and Wimbledon finalist wasted little time in dispatching first-round opponent Maria Elena Camerin of Italy, 6-2 6-1.

The Belgian, who won here in 2003, is trying to become the first player since Martina Hingis in 1997 to reach the final of all four events in the same calendar year.

She started the final leg of that challenge in fine style, wrapping up the first set in 40 minutes.

Henin-Hardenne held a 2-1 lead in the second set when Camerin needed medical attention for what appeared to be a problem with her left thigh.

The Italian eventually left the court for further treatment but must wish she hadn’t bothered returning as Henin-Hardenne raced to victory, winning four straight games in 12 minutes to complete the rout in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

“It’s still too far from now,” the Belgian said of reaching the final here. “What I did ’til now is amazing. It’s maybe the best season of my career with 2003, I would say. I’ve been very consistent from the beginning of the season.

“I’m thinking too much about what could happen here. The only thing I know is that I enjoy my tennis so much. I’m pretty healthy.

“I will go step by step and we’ll see.”

Henin-Hardenne next faces 17-year-old American Vania King, who defeated Australia’s Alicia Molik, 6-3 6-2.

This is only the second tournament since Wimbledon for Henin-Hardenne, who had been nursing nagging injuries.

It is also only a second appearance since July for Lindsay Davenport, who eased to a straightforward 6-1 6-4 win over Czech Klara Zakopalova in just 52 minutes.

“I was thinking that the most important thing was get off to a good start and try and make it as concise as possible,” said the American, who meets Croatian Jelena Kostanic in the second round.

“With one small lapse in the second I was able to do that and keep the match under an hour and hopefully no damage done.

“Now that I have every other day off, I think I’ll be able to kind of make it better as the tournament goes on.”

Fourth seed Elena Dementieva of Russia got past American Laura Granville 6-1 6-4, but sixth-seeded compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 champion, needed a little more work to progress.

She narrowly avoided a repeat of her opening-day exit last year when she took a little over two hours to overcome the challenge of Sandra Kloesel of Germany, 6-2 2-6 6-3.

Also victorious were No 20 Maria Kirilenko of Russia, No 21 Shahar Peer of Israel, No 22 Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, No 26 Marion Bartoli of France, No 28 Ai Sugiyama of Japan and No 33 Vera Zvonareva of Russia.

However, 15th-seeded German Anna-Lena Groenefeld was upset by Aravane Rezai of France, 2-6 6-0 6-4.

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