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Men’s final Belgian easily wins Open title

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Justine Henin-Hardenne kisses the Roland Garros trophy after beating France's Mary Pierce in the finals.

Justine Henin-Hardenne kisses the Roland Garros trophy after beating France’s Mary Pierce in the finals.

Lionel Cironneau, Associated Press

PARIS — In a French Open final that was more symbolic than sensational, Justine Henin-Hardenne put an exclamation point on a three-month comeback from illness and injury and thoroughly trounced Mary Pierce in the second worst championship rout in tournament history.

It took all of one hour and two minutes for the 5-foot-6 Belgian with the hummingbird metabolism to shut down her bigger, stronger opponent, 6-1, 6-1, without the loss of serve, and she did it just the way it was drawn up in the scouting report.

It was Henin-Hardenne's quickness and agility vs. Pierce's power stroking. If it had been on a fast surface, it might have been closer.

But this is clay, and it gave Henin-Hardenne a major advantage. She could run down Pierce's shots but the slow, plodding Pierce looked clumsy and at times amateurish as she tried vainly to cover the court.

"I played very well, very aggressive at the beginning, and I served good the whole match," Henin-Hardenne said as she sat in a postmatch news conference, her second French Open trophy at his left arm.

The scene on court after this victory seemed odd as the French crowd, dejected over their countrywoman's loss, only politely applauded her conqueror. They seemed more interested in consoling Pierce than in praising Henin-Hardenne, who raised both arms high to indicate victory in a strangely subdued celebration.

Meanwhile, Pierce, one of the WTA Tour's real veterans at age 30, was suddenly overcome with emotion. When she was handed the on-court microphone and her runner-up trophy, she launched into a meandering, tearful series of thank yous.

"I just had such mixed emotions, and it was just so difficult. Right at that point I was definitely sad that I lost and sad that the match went by so fast and I didn't play well," Pierce said.

"But happy that I was there, actually able to stand there as a finalist at this tournament. This is my third time in the finals here, which is unbelievable. I just get very emotional when I think about it."

After winning the French Open and U.S. Open in 2003, most of Henin-Hardenne's 2004 season was wiped out by an attack of cytomegalovirus, which attacks the body's immune system.

She thought she was over it in the summer and easily won the Olympic Games. But it reappeared, and she spent the rest of the year recuperating.

Now, with four Grand Slam titles, this French Open has become a symbol of Henin-Hardenne's hard work and dedication to get back to No. 1.

Men's final

Teen prodigy Rafael Nadal and Argentine journeyman Mariano Puerta meet today in the first all-lefty men's final at Roland Garros since 1946 and the first in any Grand Slam event since 1998.

At No. 5 in the rankings, Nadal is the top-ranked left-hander and the only one in the top 20, allowing him to hit shots at angles other players seldom see. But that advantage will be neutralized against Puerta, third-highest in the rankings among lefties and 37th overall.

Nadal is a big favorite in the wake of his semifinal victory over top-ranked Roger Federer.

The match begins at 7 a.m.