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Henin-Hardenne clinches title

Rafael Nadal holds his nerve to win Monte Carlo Masters

CHARLESTON (South Carolina): Former No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne regained her top form on Sunday, beating second-seeded Elena Dementieva 7-5, 6-4 to win the Family Circle Cup in her second tournament since returning from illness and injury.

"I won 20 tournaments in my career and this one is very special because it is after such a long, hard time," Henin-Hardenne said. "It's been very emotional for me today because I come from something really bad, very bad experience last year."

The Belgian, ranked No. 43 by the WTA Tour, raised her racquet high in the air and then pumped her fists after closing out Dementieva, ranked No. 5.

Later the players, who have practiced together in the past, kissed each other on the cheek as they met at the net before Henin-Hardenne collected the crystal cup. Henin-Hardenne spent most of last year ranked No. 1, winning the Australian Open and gold at the Athens Olympics. But after the U.S. Open, she suffered a viral illness and then a knee injury while practicing in late December. Her first match back was last month's Nasdaq-100 Open, where she made it to the quarterfinals.

Henin-Hardenne, who will move up to No. 22 in the rankings, became only the second unseeded player to win the Family Circle Cup in the $1.3 million tournament's 32-year history. Iva Majoli did it three years ago.

The champion, who takes home $189,000, also won her second Family Circle Cup title in as many appearances. Henin-Hardenne beat Serena Williams in the final two years ago and is now 11-0 in matches played on the green clay on Daniel Island.

Henin-Hardenne fell behind 5-3 in the first set before winning four straight games. In the second, she went up 4-1 before Dementieva battled back to tie it at 4-all. Dementieva, serving the next game, built a 40-15 lead but Henin-Hardenne broke her and then held serve in the next game to take the match.

"She was playing unbelievable today. In the second set, you know, I just missed a great chance to make it 5-4 for me on my serve," Dementieva said. "Justine, she plays even better than she was before her illness," she added.

Teeny bop

In Monte Carlo, Rafael Nadal beat the defending champion Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to win the Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday.

The 18-year-old Spaniard became the first teenager in more than a decade to win at Monte Carlo and denied Coria of his first ATP title of the season.

Nadal won his first career Masters title, and fourth title overall. He narrowly lost to top-ranked Roger Federer at Key Biscayne earlier this month, and wobbled again as Coria staged an impressive fightback.

"This is my first very important tournament win," Nadal said. "I was happy to win the Davis Cup, now this is incredible."

Coria complained that the overcast conditions made the balls `very heavy' and stopped him from playing his normal game.

Paes-Zimonjic triumph

Leander Paes and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia and Montenegro won the doubles title in the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters Series. The fifth seeded pair emerged champion after getting a walkover from its third seeded opponents Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan of USA. The Bryans were forced to pull out after Mike Bryan suffered a shoulder injury.

The results:

Barcelona: Barcelona Open: First round: Thomas Johansson bt Stefan Koubek 6-2, 6-1; Dominik Hrbaty bt Jerome Haehnel 6-1, 6-1; Xavier Malisse bt Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 6-2; Peter Wessels bt Cyril Saulnier 6-3, 6-3; Juan Monaco bt Igor Andreev 6-3, 2-6, 6-3; Potito Starace bt Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-1, 6-1; Max Mirnyi bt Albert Costa 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(2); Stanislav Wawrinka bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-1; Jarkko Nieminen bt Hyung-Taik Lee 6-4, 7-6(4); Felix Mantilla bt Michael Llodra 6-2, 6-2. — Agencies

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