Serena Williams and Justine Henin faced off in an unlikely final at the 2010 Australian Open.
After stepping away from the game for nearly two years while still in her prime, former world No. 1 Henin decided to return to action in 2010. In her first tournament back, the Belgian lost to her countrywoman Kim Clijsters in a three-set battle in the final in Brisbane. It was Clijsters’ own comeback a few months prior that culminated with a title at the US Open that inspired Henin’s return.
At the year’s first major, the Australian Open, the unranked Henin put on a vintage performance throughout the fortnight, eventually reaching the final. Along the way, she defeated three seeded players, including Elena Dementieva, in the second round.
Her next opponent would be the most formidable one in the draw.
Williams, the top seed and defending champion, breezed through the first week, only dropping as many as four games in a set once. Her quarterfinal and semifinal matches against Victoria Azarenka and Li Na, respectively, were more difficult affairs as Azarenka pushed her to three sets, while Li went down in a pair of tiebreakers. It was good preparation for a match against Henin, a seven-time Grand Slam champion.
Hoping to see the completion of a fairy-tale comeback, the crowd was with Henin, a former champion in Melbourne, right from the start. It was the American—a popular player at the tournament in her own right—who would take the first set, winning it 6-4.
Early in the second set, Williams broke Henin’s serve, putting herself in prime position to defend her title. However, Henin showed she wasn’t done by breaking Williams’ back and then taking four games on the trot to send the match into a decider.
An unexpected match went into an eagerly anticipated third set, and the two exchanged breaks early. With the score tied at two games apiece, Williams went on a tear of her own: The American took four games in a row to clinch the match for her 12th career Grand Slam singles title, tying her with Billie Jean King on the all-time list. The 6-4 3-6 6-2 win marked the last time Williams played against the Belgian.
Henin’s record against Venus and Serena Williams fell to 0-2 in Grand Slam finals. She dropped the 2001 Wimbledon championship match to Venus.
Williams’ fifth title in Melbourne made this her most successful as far as major championships go: She had three titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open and one at the French Open.
The last time two former winners of the event met in the final was 2005, when Williams beat 2000 champion Lindsay Davenport.
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