Henin wins opener at Indian Wells

Justin Henin beat Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-2, 6-2, in the first
round of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday.

Henin, the former No. 1 who is playing in this tournament for
the first time since 2006, was the top-ranked player on the Sony
Ericsson WTA Tour when she unexpectedly retired in May, 2008.

She returned to the tour in January and was runner-up at
Brisbane and again at the Australian Open after withdrawing from a
tournament in Sydney due to a strained muscle.

Unranked after her lengthy absence, Henin took a wild card into
this $4.5 million event and is one of six former champions in the
96-player field. However, only Henin and 2006 winner Maria
Sharapova are in the bottom half of the bracket where Caroline
Wozniacki of Denmark and Elena Dementieva of Russia are the top
seeds.

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova is in the top half of the bracket
with former champions Kim Clijsters (2003, 2005), Daniela
Hantuchova (2002, 2007), Ana Ivanovic (2008) and Vera Zvonareva
(2009).

Henin, idle since the Australian Open final, didn’t serve well
at just 48 percent, but won 20 of 26 first-serve points and saved
the four break points against her in the 68-minute match.

“It was a very good feeling. This is a tournament I like a
lot,” said Henin, who will meet Gisela Dulko of Argentina in the
second round. “It’s been a break of one month with no competition
so I was glad the way I went into the match today. Not everything
was perfect, but I found a pretty good rhythm and felt I could go a
lot to the net and I felt really good on the court, actually.”

Henin said when she began her comeback she felt it would take
four or five months to be at her best physically and mentally, and
her run to the Australian Open final didn’t change that.

“I still think I need a few more tournaments,” said Henin, a
seven-time Grand Slam champion. “In Australia I proved to myself
that I could make it, that I didn’t really need a lot of
competition to be at a pretty good level. But I see further than
that. For the French Open and Wimbledon I hope I can be at my best
level.

“I need to get used just to being back on tour. That’s not that
easy, to find a rhythm, to really find my place. I still have to
build my confidence, I have to win matches, I have to feel strong
enough mentally and physically.

Also moving into the second round on Wednesday were Patty
Schnyder of Switzerland, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Tathiana Garbin of
Italy; Vera Dushevina of Russia, with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over
Jelena Dokic of Australia; Olga Govortsova of Belarus, who beat
Czech Iveta Benesova, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (8); Alicia Molok of Australia,
with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Tatjana Malek of Germany; Shuai Peng
of China, who outlasted Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 6-1, 2-6,
6-4; Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who ousted Kaia Kanepi of Estonia,
6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4; and American Jill Craybas, a 6-0, 7-5 winner
over Eleni Daniilidou of Greece.

Others moving into the second round were Vania King, who beat
Christina McHale, 7-5, 6-3, in an all-American match; Virginie
Razzano of France, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Kristina Barrios of
Germany; Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan, who beat Melinda Czink of
Hungary, 6-2, 6-2; Great Britain’s Elena Baltacha, a 6-3, 6-7 (3),
6-4 winner over Alexa Glatch of the U.S.; Tamarine Tanasugarn of
Thailand, who toppled Edina Gallovits of Romania, 6-2, 6-3; and
Polona Hercog of Slovakia, with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Romania’s
Ioana Raluca Olaru.