Top seed Justine Henin had to work harder than expected to beat Olga Poutchkova 6-1 7-5 in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. The world number one was well on top in the first set but her game deserted her as Poutchkova fought back from 5-2 down before Henin finally sealed victory.
Henin said: “I lost some intensity and it was tough at the end.
“I never like to meet a player I don’t know much about. They always go for it because they have got nothing to lose.”
It was a 30th straight win for the Belgian, who has lost only one match since May 2007, but she was not at her best at the Rod Laver Arena.
Henin looked like she was on course for a routine victory in the early stages but Poutchkova, ranked 97th, began to find her range with a powerful backhand and Henin’s serve disintegrated.
Five games in a row went against serve in the second set as both players struggled and, although Henin eventually steadied herself to move into a 5-2 lead, Poutchkova was still causing her problems.
The Russian saved three match points to come back from 5-2 down to level the second set before Henin recovered her poise to break again and seal victory.
The Belgian’s confidence seemed low and she relied on mistakes from her big-hitting opponent to eventually triumph and set up a third round clash with Italy’s Francesca Schiavone.
Schiavone, the 25th seed, beat Angelique Kerber in straight sets.