INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP)—Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki rallied for a win in her first tournament in a month. However, former champion Justine Henin’s comeback hit a roadblock.
Henin, playing her third tournament since ending a 19-month retirement, trailed 4-1, in the third set Friday and lost to Gisela Dulko of Argentina, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Wozniack also trailed, 4-1 in the third set, but the 19-year-old who uses boxing workouts to improve her physical fitness, rebounded to beat Vania King, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, in their second-round match.
Henin, who retired in May, 2008, while No. 1 in the world, had reached the finals at Brisbane, Australia, and in the Australian Open in her previous outings this year. But against Dulko, the 31st seed in this 96-player event, the Belgian continued to struggle on serve, saving just 2 of 8 break points, and never could find consistency with her groundstrokes.
“It was a tough day today, I agree,” said Henin, who will be somewhere between No. 30 and 35 when she returns to the rankings March 22. “I was never into a good rhythm and never really found my way to win. Even in the second set it was better, but still a lot of ups and downs.
“She (Dulko) was playing quite high balls, also, and I never really found a good timing. So I wasn’t consistent enough. That’s very simple. It’s a bit of an off day and you have to deal with it.”
Henin did rally from that 4-1 deficit to pull to 5-4, but in a sequence that epitomized the match, she made three unforced errors to give Duko match point and the 25-year-old from Buenos Aires closed it out with a running crosscourt forehand after retrieving Henin’s drop shot.
U.S. Open finalist Wozniacki, the No. 2 seed in this $4.5 million event, seemed to be taking control of the match with No. 76 King when she won six games in a row in the second set. But King, who’s now 0-12 against top 10 players, responded by winning three games without losing a point to take a 4-1 lead in the third.
Wozniacki said she was telling herself: “It’s not over yet. She still has (to win) two more games, and her father, Piotr, who’s also her coach, made sure she understood the situation.
“He just kept telling me ‘stay positive, move your legs, take your time on your serve,”’ said Wozniacki, who occasionally trains with Danish boxer Mikkel Kessler. “He said, ‘if you don’t start playing more aggressively or do something different, you’re not going to win this match. You don’t have anything to lose now.
“I think I stepped it up a little bit at that point, and I think she got a little bit more nervous as well. But I just kept hanging in there. That was the key.”
It was the first day any of the 32 women’s seeds were in action and several of them didn’t enjoy it at all. No. 7 Li Na of China lost to Elena Baltacha of Great Britain, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-6 (7); No. 20 Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine bowed to Shuai Peng of China, 6-1, 6-4; No. 22 Sabine Lisicki of Germany retired with left ankle sprain while trailing American Jill Craybas, 4-6, 7-5, 2-0; No. 29 Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain lost to Alicia Molik of Australia, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3); and No. 30 Aleksandra Wozniack of Canada was beaten, 6-1, 6-2, by Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
No. 4 Elena Dementieva, No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 10 Maria Sharapova, No. 11 Marion Bartoli, No. 12 Maria Kirilenko, No. 15 Francesca Schiavone, No. 16 Nadia Petrova, No. 18 Jie Zheng and No. 19 Aravane Rezai also advanced.
In the first round in the men’s draw, American James Blake was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain and Argentine David Nalbandian beat Stefan Koubek of Austria, 6-2, 7-6 (2).
A capacity crowd of 16,100 filled the stadium for the Hit for Haiti fund-raising exhibition put together by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who purchased the tournament in December.
In the just-for-fun doubles matches, Martina Navratilova and Henin beat Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport, 8-6; and Pete Sampras and Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi, 8-6.
Ellison then presented the Riverside County Chapter of the American Red Cross with a check for $1 million to aid its disaster relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Fund-raising is continuing.