- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

1:19 p.m.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Justine Henin-Hardenne is one victory from a career Grand Slam.

She defeated Kim Clijsters 6-4, 7-6 (4) today to reach the Wimbledon final and close on the one major title missing from her collection.

The third-seeded Henin-Hardenne will face No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo or 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in Saturday’s championship.

French Open champion Rafael Nadal advanced to the men’s semifinal by beating Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Their quarterfinal was postponed yesterday after Jonas Bjorkman’s five-set victory over Radek Stepanek took 6 1/2 hours, including two rain delays totaling 2 hours.

Henin-Hardenne reached the Wimbledon final in 2001, losing to Venus Williams. Since then, she has won three French Opens and one U.S. Open and Australian Open. By taking Wimbledon, she would become just the 10th woman to win all four Grand Slams.

“I don’t have anything to prove to anyone anymore,” Henin-Hardenne said. “I think I proved enough on the tennis court the fighter I am, how much I can compete. There’s always a lot of determination. It’s just about myself, and I hope I can win this title.”

Thursday’s match was the 20th career tour-level meeting between Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters and seventh at a Grand Slam but their first at Wimbledon.

The two Belgians, whose relationship has often been frosty, shook hands at the net, but they did not embrace or kiss on the cheeks, as is common in women’s tennis.

Henin-Hardenne evened the series at 10-10, winning for the third time in a month after victories in the French Open quarters and the Eastbourne grass-court event.

“For the last few matches that I played, this has been the best one I played against her,” Clijsters said. “I’m happy with that.”

Henin-Hardenne has won 17 straight matches, including 13 consecutive Grand Slam matches without dropping a set. She can become the first player in the Open era to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back without losing a set.

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