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AUSSIE OPEN: Back-to-back championships for Serena

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams ended Justine Henin's hopes of a Grand Slam title in her return from retirement with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory in the Australian Open final on Saturday.

Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before securing her second straight and fifth Australian Open title overall. It was Williams' 12th Grand Slam singles championship.

Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena, couldn't match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' feat of winning in her Grand Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year's U.S. Open in her return from a two-year retirement after getting married and having a daughter.

Williams won the last four games to clinch the championship in just over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point.

Still, it was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of the Brisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.

The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players en route to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the second round.

Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game run in the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominant finish to the set. She maintained the superiority early in the deciding set, increasing that to 18 of 19 points before Williams held serve to even the third set at 1-1.

Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it had been for much of the tournament broke Henin to go up 2-1. The two then traded breaks, with Williams going up 3-2, a lead she never relinquished.

Williams used an ace on her second serve to hold for a 4-2 lead, then broke again to move within a game of the title.

The American holds an 8-6 edge in career meetings between the pair, including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008. At the time, it equaled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and Henin quit tennis two months later.

Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit during the 2006 final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 2-0.

Williams' 12th singles major matched American great Billie Jean King's career total. King was at the stadium on Saturday night to take part in a pre-match ceremony to honor the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court's four Grand Slam tournament wins in 1970.

The men's doubles final between Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States and Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia was scheduled for later Saturday. The Bryans have won the title here three of the past four years and were losing finalists the two previous years.

The men's final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray will be held Sunday night, where Murray will attempt to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam major.

The Australian Open is Murray's 17th Grand Slam tournament, which is how many attempts Federer needed before winning for the first time at Wimbledon seven years ago against Mark Philippoussis.

Murray was beaten 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final in 2008.

Two years later, the now 22-year-old Murray thinks he knows how to end the 74-year drought.

"I'm going to need to play my best match ever," Murray said Saturday. "That's what I plan on doing. If I do, I've got a good chance of winning."

Federer played in all four finals last year and will be appearing in his 22nd Grand Slam final overall, a record. He acknowledged that the pressure will be on Murray.

"I know what it takes (to win) and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage," Federer said. "I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again. I think he really needs it more than I do."

Federer joked about the British drought after his semifinal win on Friday.

"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis since, what is it 150,000 years?" Federer joked.

Murray smiled Saturday when told of Federer's comment.

"I've only been alive for 22 and a little bit, but, yeah, it's been a long time. It's going to be tough