Paris: Justine Henin took a big step today in her return from retirement, beating Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the French Open.
The match was Henin`s first on centre court at Roland Garros since 2007, when she won the tournament for the fourth time. She rejoined the tour in January following a 20-month retirement, and while she`s seeded only 22nd, she`s considered one of the favorites for the title.
"She has all of the chances to win this tournament," said Pironkova, who had played - and lost to - Henin three times before.”
"She still plays great. I don`t think she lost (anything) with that rest that she had. I think she is playing even better. She`s faster, and her strokes are more secure."
Henin endured some ragged moments in the second set, when Pironkova won three consecutive games for a 3-2 lead. Henin swept 10 points in a row to regain control, and following another wobble serving at 4-3, she took the final six points.
"She suddenly started to go for her strokes," Pironkova said. "She started to play more aggressive."
Henin hit picturesque backhands, nifty drop shots and booming overhead slams - all staples in a repertoire that has helped her win seven Grand Slam titles. She also missed more than half of her first serves, however, and blew a handful of easy putaways.
Despite the inconsistent play, Henin extended her winning streak at Roland Garros to 22 consecutive matches and 37 consecutive sets. She hasn`t lost at the French Open since 2004.