Tributes flood in for Henin


Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:12

Billie Jean King, multiple grand slam winner and founder of the WTA:

Pound for pound Justine is the greatest player of her generation an extraordinary player, a special person and a true champion in both tennis and in life.

Larry Scott, CEO of the WTA:

Justine Henin will be remembered as a woman who made up for her lack of size with a will to win and fighting spirit that was second to none. It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules, in the very best sense of those words.”

“History will remember Justine for one of the most graceful backhands the sport has ever seen and an ability to overcome any and all obstacles placed in her way on and off the court.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the ITF:

“Justine Henin has been an outstanding athlete of her generation, and had a grace and style on court that distinguished her from other players. She has always been one of my favourite players to watch.

“Her victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics was Belgium’s only gold medal at the Games and we are sorry that she won’t be able to defend her title in Beijing. She has made a huge contribution to the sport.”

Carlos Rodriguez, Henins long-term coach and mentor:

Technically and tactically she has it all. But I think she will be remembered for the way in which she won and lost and the way she never gave up no matter what was going on in her life. She never craved fame and money. All she wanted to do was play and win.

Tennis became more than just winning for Justine, and just winning wasn’t enough for her anymore. She used tennis as an outlet for her emotions and, finally with her life now reconciled, she no longer has the fire that drove her to success. She has come full circle. She started and finished her career surrounded by those she loved, especially her family. It’s the perfect end.

Martina Navratilova, multiple grand slam winner and WTA tour player until she was 49:

Its strange. Im perplexed. Maybe theres something in the water in Belgium. They push so much harder when theyre younger than we ever did. Thats where the longevity gets cut short.

Maria Sharapova, newly-installed world number one:

She’s 25 years old and she’s achieved so much in her career. If I was 25 and I’d won so many Grand Slams, I’d quit too. Without being the strongest or the biggest, she’s won so much. She’s an inspiration. There’s so many things to life and I’m sure she wants to explore them. I definitely don’t blame her for retiring.

Ana Ivanovic, who lost to Henin in the final of last year’s French Open:

Tennis loses another champion. She was a great player and she achieved so much. She brought a lot to the women’s game – Justine had a completely different game to any other girl on the tour.

Venus Williams:

“She always challenged herself to play her best tennis no matter what the circumstances. She was just a real fighter, so I think that was really what made her best.

Men’s world number one Roger Federer:

It’s obviously a shock for the tennis world. It’s a particular surprise before Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which she’s never won. It’s quite surprising and unfortunate that she’s out of the game but she will have her reasons.

She is a special player because she can play on any surface and it’s remarkable that she’s won so many tournaments because she is small and the tall players coming in now have an advantage.

I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one. I would prefer to take a year off if it was all getting too much for me, rather than saying straight out that I’m not going to go on.

Michael Stich:

She was one of the most complete players of the last 10 years, winning seven Grand Slams. She was small compared to the other girls but she had a very complete game. She made up for her size with her tennis. She was very creative and it made her the champion that she was. Its a chance for other women to emerge and take her place.

Pat Cash:

Its a lot of pressure to keep playing at that level – certain players like Bjorn Borg retired early, and you cant blame them. The Top Ten in the womens game is full of big, powerful women and for her to outpower them in spite of her size was really fantastic. Her backhand was a thing of real beauty.

Its a loss for the game as a whole, but tennis is quite stressful for players, there isnt much of an off-season, and its not surprising that shes worn out and perhaps had enough. When you lose your motivation and the losses start to come, its no fun. Im guessing she just thought that she couldnt push herself any more and needed to stop.

Goran Ivanisevic:

I dont understand it. She was number one and she retires. She was such an unbelievable player and could have won more Grand Slams. I dont know why she did it.”

Maybe its a woman thing. I dont understand women. Its very sad for tennis – a big loss.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.