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Serena Williams wins fifth Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams won her second straight Australian Open championship, ending Justine Henin's hopes of a major singles title in her return from retirement with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory yesterday.

Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before securing her fifth Australian Open title overall and 12th major singles championship, tying Billie Jean King.

King was at the stadium last night to take part in a pre-match ceremony to honor the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court's Grand Slam in 1970.

"Billie, we are tied," Williams said. "So I've reached my goal."

Williams' five Australian titles is the most by any woman in the Open Era, since 1968, surpassing the four held by Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. Court holds 11 Australian Open titles overall, most coming before 1968.

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 a little more than two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point.

"It was definitely a tough match mentally and physically," Williams said. "We were both out there to prove something, and I think we did at the end of the day."

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.

"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, who put her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. "I thought it would never happen to me again. I'd like to congratulate Serena. She's a real champion."

Later, Henin said there was a feeling of disappointment, but accomplishment.

"It's just more than what I could expect, I just have to remember that," Henin said. "Even if it's quite soon after the match now, I'm sure there will be a lot of positive things I can think about in a few days. It's been almost perfect. Just the last step, I couldn't make it."

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