Published January 26, 2010
MELBOURNE, Australia – MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Justine Henin considers Melbourne Park the perfect spot to resume her career because of the enthusiasm of the crowds.
"I love to play here," said Henin, who won the Australian Open in 2004 and advanced to the semifinals Tuesday. "Like I said many times, the Australian people, they have the culture of the sport. They really know about tennis. They live tennis in January. Everyone's watching. We can feel this atmosphere."
She admitted that she had some unpleasant memories — including her loss in the 2008 quarterfinals to eventual champion Maria Sharapova. A few months later, Henin retired from tennis.
In her second tournament back, the seven-time Grand Slam singles winner advanced to the semifinals by defeating Nadia Petrova 7-6 (3), 7-5.
"I'm here again in the last four. It's just much more than what I could expect, and the dream continues," she said. "I think it was the best place for me to start again."
BOXER IN THE BOX: Andy Murray had a special guest in his box Tuesday night — British former world light-welterweight champion Ricky Hatton.
"That was pretty cool. I'm a huge boxing fan," Murray said.
Murray advanced to the semifinals after defending champion Rafael Nadal pulled out with a knee injury while trailing 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-0.
Murray said he had never met the British boxer, who plans to cheer him on against Marin Cilic in the semifinal.
"Spoke to him for 15 or 20 minutes after the match. Really, really nice guy," Murray said.
Hatton, vacationing in Australia, said this month he planned to return to boxing. He has not entered the ring since a second-round knockout by Manny Pacquiao in May sent him to a hospital for a precautionary brain scan.
Hatton, who has only two losses in a 47-fight career, said he wants to end his career on a high note.
SIBLINGS ADVANCE: The defending men's and women's doubles champions — two sets of American siblings — advanced to the semifinals.
The twin brothers already have seven Grand Slam doubles trophies.
Earlier, Serena and Venus Williams also needed three sets to defeat Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Yan Zi of China 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The sisters are aiming for their 11th Grand Slam doubles title.
SERVING UP PERFECT WEATHER: As predicted more than a month ago, the sun has shone but but not too fiercely on Melbourne Park during the Australian Open.
Last year, Melbourne sweltered through a heat wave with four days at 104 degrees.
This year, after opening-day showers suspended or canceled 38 matches, the skies cleared and players and fans have enjoyed an average temperature of 77 degrees.
Melbourne often has changing weather, and rain could still fall. However, the remaining matches will be played under the retractable roof in Rod Laver Arena.