Henin destroys Zheng to make Melbourne final

By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Justine Henin moved to within one step of emulating fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters by pulverizing China's Zheng Jie to reach the Australian Open final Thursday.

Henin blew Zheng off court with a quickfire 6-1 6-0 win to set up a final with defending champion Serena Williams after the American had earlier beaten Zheng's compatriot Li Na 7-6 7-6.

The Belgian is playing just her second competitive tournament after an 18-month retirement and her return to the game mirrors Clijsters, who won last year's U.S. Open in her third tournament back after a two-year absence.

Seven-times grand slam winner Henin, who has complained of fatigue during the tournament, was ruthless in her demolition of Zheng, rattling off 12 straight games to seal victory in 51 minutes.

"I feel tired of course. I had a couple of tough matches," Henin told ESPN in a courtside interview. "I played very aggressive. It was a dream for me this morning to make the final and now I can rest tomorrow and prepare for it.

"It will be tough against the best player in the world.

"She is a real champion. She proved it again this tournament when she had to fight back against (Victoria) Azarenka. I'm very happy she is in my way because she is the best."

A small pocket of Australia's Chinese community had made it to Rod Laver Arena to back Li and Zheng and while they were vocal in their support of Li, they were silenced by Henin's dazzling performance.

After Zheng held serve in the opening game, Henin quickly exposed the Chinese's weakness in that area, stepping in early to fire winners to all corners of the court.

Zheng and Li had given their country two semi-finalists at the same grand slam tournament for the first time.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)