Despite seven Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and more than two years as the world No. 1, Justine Henin didn’t feel quite satisfied enough after calling it quits on a stellar tennis career.
Her retirement lasted 16 months.
Henin said her fire and desire to play and win again at the highest level was back, and she will return to the tour next year and compete in the Australian Open in January.
She wants to play at least until the 2012 London Olympics when she will be 30. By then, she hopes to have won Wimbledon - the only Grand Slam title missing on her resume that contains four French Open titles, two U.S. Opens and one Australian Open championship.
“I want to keep going at least until then,” she said of the London Games.
She already won singles gold at the Athens Games in 2004.
Never having won Wimbledon really stung when her memories drifted back on her achievements.
So when the adrenaline rush came back a few months back, just about a year after she stunned the world with her “definitive decision” to retire, she asked her fellow-retiree Carlos Rodriguez, her coach, to give a comeback a thought.
“I hope this is the beginning of a new adventure, again,” she said.
Without any regrets she’s leaving recreational skiing, some theatre and television work behind.
“Adrenaline is part of my life, my existence. It is in my character,” she said. And the world better take notice. After the comeback from retirement yielded her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters a U.S. open title within three tournaments, Henin has even more motivation.
Her timorous frame of 5 feet 5 inches and 57 kilograms is again lifting weights with the same determination of yore in the hope she will be able to out-hit the hulking power hitters.
She wants to play two exhibition tournaments, in Charleroi, Belgium, and Dubai, to hone her skills ahead of a competitive return at the Australian Open.
At 27, Henin says she has the fire and physical strength to compete for an eighth Grand Slam title.
She officially retired on May 14, 2008, initially rejecting any thought of a comeback with a dogged determination that had come to mark her play throughout a decade-long career.
It certainly is not too late for a comeback. As Clijsters has proved.
“Subconsciously, it might have had an impact,” Henin said of Clijsters’ successful comeback. “But it certainly was not the most important reason.”
Clijsters’ stunning return also proves the top of women’s tennis is not flush with extraordinary talent, increasing Henin’s chances of success. The WTA Tour is certainly welcoming her with open arms.
“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,” WTA Tour Chairman Stacey Allaster said. “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 from the get go.”
Like Clijsters, Henin has been able to rest her body to recover from aches and pains for more than a year. Although throughout her retirement, during which she became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, she looked fit enough to immediately step back on to a court.