Justine Henin reached the final in her comeback tournament with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ana Ivanovic at the Brisbane International on Friday.
Henin, playing her first tour event since she retired while holding the No. 1 ranking in May 2008, had some trouble with her first serve but otherwise was too consistent for the 2008 French Open champion.
The seven-time major winner announced her comeback last September, soon after fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters won the U.S. Open three tournaments into her own return from retirement.
The Belgian pair could meet in the final here, with Clijsters to face German Andrea Petkovic in Friday’s later semifinal.
“Perfect situation for me, I’m the final of my first tournament back. It’s amazing,” Henin said. “It is a surprise, of course, because it’s not as easy as it seems maybe on the court. 18 months without competition, it’s not that easy.
“I didn’t know what to expect but it’s more than what I could expect for. Now it’s only a bonus to be here at this stage of the tournament, and it’s what I needed also.”
Henin needed 2 hours, 21 minutes and six match points before fending off seventh-seeded Melinda Czink in a tough, three-set quarterfinal on Thursday. She was happier with her performance against third-seeded Ivanovic, saying she’d already achieved beyond her expectations as a wild card entrant in the first of her Australian Open tuneup events.
Against Ivanovic, who was only playing her fourth match since September, Henin only got 45 percent of her first serves into play but saved herself with her strong ground strokes and speed around the court.
“I took the opportunities, that’s a better feeling than yesterday, for sure,” said the 27-year-old Henin, who hit 18 winners and only made eight unforced errors.
Ivanovic, 22, who has slipped from No. 1 to No. 21 and failed to win a tournament in 2009, made 19 unforced errors and four telling double-faults.
Clijsters reached the semis with a topsy turvy 6-1, 0-6, 6-4 win over No. 41-ranked Lucie Safarova, while Petkovic had an upset win over fourth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets to advance to her third tour semifinal.
In the men’s quarterfinals, fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych was playing Thomas Bellucci of Brazil and top-seeded Andy Roddick had a night match Friday against Richard Gasquet of France.
Defending champion Radek Stepanek is already into the semis after beating American Wayne Odesnik 7-6 (2), 6-1 on Thursday. He’ll play third-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, who rallied to beat James Blake 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after the veteran American saved three match points.