‘The flame has been re-lit’: Justine Henin returns
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:45
So the rumours were true – Justine Henin has announced she will return to professional tennis in 2010, and has set her sights on completing her career slam with victory at Wimbledon.
The Belgian, who retired in May 2008 aged 25 and ranked No.1 in the world at the time saying she no longer had any passion for the game, will play exhibition matches in Dubai and Charleroi, Belgium ahead of a full WTA Tour comeback at the start of next year.
“I’m really happy and deeply moved to be able to announce tonight that I’m coming back to competitive tennis,” Henin said on Belgian TV station RTL–TVI on Tuesday.
“These past 15 months have been enriching, but there is a flame that has been re-lit. I thought it had been put out forever.”
The 27-year-old’s announcement comes less than two weeks after compatriot Kim Clijsters capped her own comeback with victory at the US Open, but Henin revealed that she had been considering a comeback since seeing Roger Federer lift the Roland Garros trophy in June.
“Subconsciously, it might have had an impact,” Henin said of Clijsters’ New York fairytale. “But it certainly was not the most important reason.
Roger Federers victory at Roland Garros spoke to me much more, because it made me think of a lot of things in relation to Wimbledon. I felt a lack and maybe for the first time I really felt that Wimbledon was missing from my list of trophies.
Winning Wimbledon is a dream. Its more than an aim, its really a dream. Im giving myself the means to look to achieve great things but will that be enough to win Wimbledon? At the moment I dont have the answer to that. I know Im going to work for it though.
“There is a flame that has been re-lit – I thought it had been put out forever”
Henin has seven grand slam titles among a total haul of 41 career victories and was credited with the best backhand in the women’s game prior to her shock decision to call it quits.
She already has four French Opens, two US Opens and an Australian Open title to her name, as well as Olympic gold in 2004, but a Wimbledon title, and a career golden slam, had eluded her.
Henin, whose grand slam return will be at the Australian Open in January, is to once again be coach by Carlos Rodriguez, who reiterated that Wimbledon glory played a part in Henin’s decision.
“I swear I was extremely surprised,” said the Argentine. “I’m happy because at the end of the day it’s what she loves. She has entrusted me once again and I will try to never let her down.
“I’m very happy to be helping her to restart her new life. It’s a super challenge for her. The desire to win Wimbledon is one of the main reasons she’s come back and I’ll do everything to help her do it.”
US Open champion has hailed Henin’s copycat return as “brilliant” news for women’s tennis.
Compatriots Clijsters and Henin both reached the pinnacle of the women’s game before stunning the tennis world and Belgium when they quit the sport within a year of one another.
“I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis but even better news for Belgium in general,” Clijsters said on her website.
“Justine worked really hard in the past to achieve great results that she recorded in her first career. For tennis it is brilliant that she’s back.”
WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster was also delighted to welcome back Henin.
“Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women’s tennis and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled with her announcement today,” Allaster said in a statement.
“Justine is that rare athlete who decided to step away from the game at the height of her powers and no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with. Her career was marked by so many amazing moments and a new chapter begins today.”