Serena Williams has defended her Australian Open title and denied Justine Henin a dream return with a 6-4 3-6 6-2 win in tonight’s final at Rod Laver Arena.
The 28-year-old American overcame the rejuvenated Belgian and a crowd that clearly wanted to witness the culmination of her fairytale return from a 20-month retirement to claim her fifth title at Melbourne Park.
Williams had to stave off a brave fightback from Henin who had gone into the decisive third set with the momentum after reeling off four consecutive games to level the match.
But Williams established her class when it mattered to win the first three-set women’s final since Wimbledon in 2006 – when Henin was also on the wrong end of the scoreline against Amelie Mauresmo.
Henin missed chances to break Williams in her opening two service games and was made to pay as the American took the opening break to love and forge 3-1 ahead.
Henin thought she had broken back in the next game when Williams hit a backhand long, but the point was replayed after a line judge corrected an earlier out call.
It brought boos from the crowd and when Williams held they again voiced their sense of injustice.
Henin did break back with a forehand winner that brought the Belgian’s first characteristic celebratory shout of ’allez’.
But she handed the set to Williams when she double faulted before dumping a forehand into the net.
The omens looked ominous for Henin when Williams broke to love early in the second set, but the Belgian showed her feted battling qualities to immediately break back.
She then reeled off the last four games of the set to level the match and send the crowd into raptures.
Both players traded breaks early in the third set, but it was Williams’ serve that held strongest.
After being tied at 2-2 in the third set, Williams won the final four games before clinching her 12th singles major title with a backhand winner.