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ANTWERP, BELGIUM, Sunday February 17,2002

Venus Williams Overpowers Henin in Antwerp Open Sun Feb 17,12:06 PM ET

ANTWERP, Belgium (Reuters) - World number two Venus Williams, a last-minute replacement in the tournament for her injured sister Serena, beat second-seeded Belgian Justine Henin 6-3 5-7 6-3 to win the Antwerp Open Sunday.

The top-seeded Williams is now in a good position to claim the world number one spot for the first time by edging out Jennifer Capriati who currently tops the rankings.

Henin, playing before a capacity crowd including Belgium's Crown Prince Philippe and the country's number one player Kim Clijsters, started slowly despite the home fans cheering her on.

Just as in Saturday's semifinal against Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, Henin took time to settle. The teen-ager struggled to hold her opening service game, having to save break point twice.

Henin lost the next four games in a row but managed to bounce back in the fifth to break the Williams serve.

The American had started her opening service game with her usual show of force -- a killer ace that reached 182 kph -- and continued her attack with some strong volleys and baseline shots into the corners of the court to take the first set 6-3.


Henin narrowed the gap in class during the second set, firing off powerful returns and backhand slices that sent Williams scrambling.

From 3-5 down the world number nine fought hard to stave off defeat as the American carved out three match points on the Henin serve but the Belgian survived.

Henin won the penultimate point of the game with a punishing volley to the deafening applause of the crowd before finally holding her serve.

After missing her chance to clinch the match Williams -- who has won the Australian Gold Coast and Paris Open indoor tournaments this year -- lost concentration and the next three games as Henin won the set 7-5.

In a close third set, Williams showed off her impressive reach and athleticism as she bounded around the court to return serve.

Each point was hard-fought with neither player holding serve until the sixth game, which Williams took.

The American lost the next game but went on to take the last two to wrap up the set 6-3 and the match.