On May 14, 2008, Justine Henin stunningly announced her retirement from professional tennis at age 25. She was the first current No. 1 player to ever walk away from the game. Now, she is back. After a year away from the game, and perhaps inspired by her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters successful comeback to tennis after marriage and motherhood (winning a second major at the 2009 U.S. Open), Henin is back in business and is already showing she is a threat to win more majors and return to No. 1. Here is a summary of Henin’s career as seen in the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com.)
There’s not much there, as far as physique goes. But within that 5-foot-5, 120 pound frame churns a highly competitive heart and the flair of an artist who plays the game with superlative grace and style. Flitting across the court quickly, nimbly, Justine Henin is a model of complete greatness, at home anywhere in the rectangle, baseline or net.
A right-hander with a stunning one-handed backhand drive, she grasped No. 1 for a year (2003), then returned for 2006-07, and would be very difficult to unseat were she still in view.
A brilliant 2007 contained nine titles—among them a fourth French, a second U.S.—and new zest based on heightened happiness in her personal life. Reconnecting with her family after a period of estrangement, and unconnecting with husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne (as Henin-Hardenne she won five of her seven majors), gave Justine an emotional lift. Her dash to the 2007 U.S. title was particularly satisfying since she had to erase the American Williams family in succession, Serena in the quarterfinals, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, and Venus in the semifinals, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, before a 6-1, 6-3, crushing of Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, who she also beat 6-4, 6-4 in the 2006 French final.
Born June 1, 1982 in Liege, Belgium, she turned pro in 1999 and was coached by Carlos Rodriguez throughout. She played Federation Cup for six years—1999—03, 06 and achieved a 15-1 singles record and 0-2 doubles record and helped win the Cup for Belgium in 2001 and reach the 2006 final. She won gold medal in women’s singles at the 2004 Olympics, defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-3 in the gold-medal match.
She won seven major singles titles—Australian, 2004, defeating countrywomen Kim Clijsters, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; French, 2003, defeating Clijsters again, 6-0, 6-4; 2005, defeating Mary Pierce of France, 6-1, 6-1; 2006, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-4, 6-4; 2007, defeating Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-1, 6-2; U.S., 2003, defeating Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1; 2007, defeating Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-3. She lost four major singles finals: Australian, 2006, to Amelie Mauresmo of France, 6-1, 2-0, ret; Wimbledon, 2001, to Venus Williams of the United States, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0; 2006, to Mauresmo, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; U.S., 2006, to Maria Sharapova of Russia, 6-4, 6-4. Henin also made the semifinals of the Australian, 2003, French, 2001, Wimbledon, 2002-03, 07; the quarterfinals of the Australian, 2002 and 2008. From 2001, she has spent seven straight years in the Top 10: Nos. 7, 5, 1, 8, 6, 1, 1.
She has overcome numerous injuries and illnesses, and the negative publicity that accompanied her quitting the 2006 Australian final to Mauresmo, behind, 6-1, 2-0, claiming a stomach ache. But she showed her spunk during the 2003 U.S. Open. Somehow she beat Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in the semifinals in 3:03 (ending 12:27AM Saturday morning), even though Capriati was two points from victory 11 times, and served for it at 5-3 in the 2nd and 3rd sets. Justine, cramping in the third set, needed IV attention following the match. Yet later in the day took the championship, beating Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1, avoiding two set points at 4-5, 15-40.
As the first to win three straight French since Monica Seles, 1990-92, Justine revels in the Parisian earth, thrilled as a little girl brought to Roland Garros by her mother. She won two season-ending WTA Tour Championships—2006 defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-3; 2007 defeating Maria Sharapova (3hrs 24min) 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. In 2007, she was the first woman to end a season with more than $5 million in prize money in a season—$5,367,086.
Other prominent singles titles won include the German Open three times—2002, defeating Serena Williams, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 2003, defeating Clijsters, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 2005, defeating Nadia Petrova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. She also won the Canadian Open in 2003, defeating. Lina Krasnoroutskaya, 6-1, 6-0 and Indian Wells in 2004, defeating Lindsay Davenport, 6-1, 6-4. During her career, she won 41 singles (489-105 matches), two doubles pro titles and $19,461,375 in prize money.
MAJOR TITLES (7)—Australian singles, 2004; French singles, 2003, 05-06-07; U.S. singles, 2003, 07. FEDERATION CUP—1999-2003, 2006; 15-3 in singles, 0-2 in doubles. SINGLES RECORDS IN THE MAJORS—Australian (30-6); French (35-4), Wimbledon (27-7), U.S. (35-7)