Belgian duo confirmed for Diamond battle
Originally published on: 01/10/10 11:02
Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters are set for their fourth showdown of 2010 after the pair confirmed their participation in an exhibition match at the Diamond Games in Antwerp on December 9th.
The Belgian duo had been set to contest a one-off match in front of a record crowd in Brussels this July, but 28-year-old Henin was forced to withdraw after injuring her elbow during her fourth round Wimbledon defeat to the three-time US Open champion.
Serena Williams – never one to pass up a record-setting opportunity – stepped in for the July 8 encounter in the Belgian capital, and while she lost 6-3 6-2 to home favourite Clijsters, the 13-time Grand Slam champ found another way to surpass her idol and 12-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King.
Playing in front of a 35,681 strong crowd at King Baudouin Stadium – Williams and Clijsters trounced the previous record of 30,742 set by King and Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in the Houston Astrodome in 1973.
Henin, despite not playing since Wimbledon after slipping on the turf and injuring her elbow, is expected to return to full fitness in time for another ‘Battle of the Belgians’. And while their December clash won’t be a record-breaker, it will provide Henin a chance to atone for her three consecutive defeats to her long-term rival. Clijsters leads their head to head record 13-12 after winning all of their meetings – in Brisbane, Miami and at Wimbledon – since the pair returned from retirement.
The seven-time Grand Slam champ, who made the final in her comeback slam in Melbourne last January, will use the exhibition match as useful preparation for an assault at her second Aussie Open title in January.
Both Clijsters and Henin have fond memories of Antwerp, which hosted a WTA Tour level tournament until 2008 when their retirement contributed to the tournament’s demise – interest wavered and the WTA calendar was restructured.
One of the two featured in the final six times between 2002 and 2008, with Henin the last to claim the title, picking up the coveted golden racket and ball trophy decorated with 2008 diamonds and worth an estimated 1.5million euros.