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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Updated: January 20, 7:18 PM ET
Clijsters, Kuznetsova move ahead

ESPN.com news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Justine Henin, granted a wild-card spot at the Australian Open, advanced in her Grand Slam comeback with a 7-5, 7-6 (6) win over reigning Olympic champion Elena Dementieva.

Henin
Justine Henin's victory was another step toward a potential matchup with Kim Clijsters.

Henin, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, produced the biggest win of her return after 20 months in retirement with a 7-5, 7-6 (6) defeat of fifth-seeded Dementieva in the night match on Rod Laver Arena, the center court.

"It was very emotional for me on the court at the end because there was so much intensity," Henin said. "It's magical to win this kind of match in this kind of atmosphere."

Henin's win was another step closer to a possible quarterfinal match against U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters, who scored a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand.

It was Clijsters' U.S. Open title -- only three tournaments back from two years in retirement, during which she married and had a child -- that inspired Henin, her fellow Belgian, to return to the tour.

Against Dementieva, Henin had a match point at 5-4 and 40-30 but netted a forehand. Dementieva produced consecutive backhand winners to even the second set.

Henin again had a chance to serve for the match but was broken, with Dementieva forcing a tiebreaker and then leading 3-1. The Russian also had a set point in the tiebreaker before Henin won three straight points to finish it off in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

Henin said the appreciative crowd and the scope of her win made her happy she returned to the sport.

"The crowd gave me so much, so respectful at the end. That's why I probably came back on the tour, was to live this kind of match," Henin said.

Clijsters and Henin met in the Brisbane International final nearly two weeks ago, with Clijsters winning a close three-set match in Henin's first official tournament in her comeback.

"My attitude doesn't change because now I'm seen as one of the favorites," said Clijsters, who is 20-3 in her comeback. "To me, that doesn't mean anything."

Her next opponent will be No. 19 Nadia Petrova, one of the Russian women already into the third round. Petrova is joined by French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year's Australian Open runner-up Dinara Safina and Maria Kirilenko.

Third-ranked Kuznetsova was first into the third round when she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-2.

Kuznetsova broke Pavlyuchenkova's serve twice to start and got on top of most rallies with a strong forehand and had 27 winners; Pavlyuchenkova had only seven.

Kuznetsova, who has two Grand Slam singles championships -- adding the French last year to her win at the 2004 U.S. Open -- has a chance to reach the No. 1 ranking for the first time if she takes the Australian Open title.

Kim Clijsters
On Day 3, Kim Clijsters improved to 20-3 since ending her retirement.

"Yes, definitely, I know all the way how to go -- I've done it twice," Kuznetsova said of her chances of winning a major. She's never gone past the quarterfinals in Melbourne.

No. 2 Safina had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova -- saving four break points in the last game before serving it out.

Safina has held the No. 1 ranking but never won a major. She next plays Britain's Elena Baltacha, who has already equaled her best run at the season's first major by reaching the third round with a 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 30 Kateryna Bondarenko.

No. 16 Yanina Wickmayer, a Belgian who didn't get a seeding here because her suspension for a World Anti-Doping Agency "whereabouts rule" violation hadn't been overturned before entries closed, reached the third-round with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over No. 12 Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

No. 11 Marion Bartoli advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic.

China's Zheng Jie won 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 over No. 24 Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain.

No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who lost the U.S. Open final to Clijsters, had a 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak.

In other first-round matches carried over to Wednesday from the rain-interrupted opening days, No. 7 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat French wild card Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-2, 6-0; No. 9 Vera Zvonareva beat Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-0; and No. 16 Li Na of China, a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open, beat New Zealander Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-0.

No. 22 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and No. 29 Shahar Peer of Israel also advanced.

Serena and Venus Williams won in doubles, starting the defense of their Australian title with a 6-1, 6-1 win.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.