Pierce and Henin-Hardenne in French Open final

2nd June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 2 (AFP) - Former champions Mary Pierce and Justine Henin-Hardenne will contest the first-ever Franco-Belgian French Open women's singles final after both recorded easy victories in Thursday's semi-finals.

PARIS, June 2 (AFP) - Former champions Mary Pierce and Justine Henin-Hardenne will contest the first-ever Franco-Belgian French Open women's singles final after both recorded easy victories in Thursday's semi-finals.  

The champion in 2000 and 21st seed, Pierce defeated 16th seeded Russian Elena Likhovtseva 6-1, 6-1 in just 58 minutes.  

Earlier Henin-Hardenne, the winner in 2003, cruised past another Russian, Nadia Petrova, 6-2, 6-3 in 1hr 08min.  

The 30-year-old Pierce completed a remarkable comeback from the ranks of the has-beens battling against a succession of injuries and weight problems that had dogged her for the last few years.  

She made it into the last four by ousting three successive top tenners, Vera Zvonareva, Patty Schnyder and top seed Lindsay Davenport, and she hardly needed to break sweat to brush aside the ineffective Likhovtseva.  

"It's incredible and again I'm astonished with myself. I was very solid mentally from the start to the finish. I played just how I needed to," said Pierce.  

"She didnt give me any rhythm and I struggled throughout the match," said Likhovtseva.  

Pierce opened well, looking comfortable behind her big first serve and within 11 minutes she was 3-0 and a service break ahead.  

The 29-year-old Russian, in her first Grand Slam semi-final at the 46th attempt, had no answer to Pierce's power although she staved off two break points to avoid going 4-0 down.  

Pierce then had to save two break points against her own serve in her only wobbly game of the match after which she finished off the set 6-1 in just 32 minutes.  

It was more of the same one-way traffic in the second set with a smiling, relaxed Pierce on cruise control and Likhovtseva looking like she wished she was elsewhere.  

Pierce broke in the third game to lead 2-1 and it had all become embarrassingly one-sided.  

The Montreal-born Frenchwoman broke again to go 5-1 up and put Likhovtseva out of her misery in the next game finishing her off with another rasping forehand winner.  

At 30 years and five months, Pierce will be the oldest Grand Slam finalist since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994.  

She won the 2000 French Open title as well as the 1997 Australian Open and was runner-up in Roland Garros in 1994, the best Grand Slam record for any Frenchwoman or man since World War II.  

But she has never beaten Henin-Hardenne in three matches between the two, losing their last matchup in straight sets in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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