Justine Henin has been granted a wild card entry to the Australian Open in what she is targeting as her comeback to Grand Slam tennis.
Henin, who won the 2004 Australian Open among her seven major singles titles, announced last month she was returning to the women’s tour after more than a year in retirement.
“I spoke to Justine’s team over the weekend and was happy to grant her request for a wildcard,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement today. .
“Justine is the ultimate competitor and we are looking forward to welcoming her back.
“I know Justine will not have made the decision to come out of retirement lightly, and have no doubt she will be in great shape and prepared to compete against the world’s best.”
The Australian Open has up to 12 wild cards to issue in each of the men’s and women’s 128-player draws.
Henin will not have a protected ranking when she returns to the tour and so will need to get wild card entries or enter qualifying to get places in the main draw.
She is negotiating with organizers in Brisbane, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand in early January as tuneup events for the Jan. 18-31 Australian Open.
Henin announced her comeback soon after fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters won the US Open, only three tournaments into her own comeback from retirement.
“Watching Kim Clijsters’ amazing win at the US Open was inspirational - who knows, perhaps the two will meet again at the Australian Open. I’d certainly look forward to that match,” Tiley said.
Clijsters became the first mother since Australia’s Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980 to win a Grand Slam singles championship when she took the US Open title last month, her first major back on the tour.
The 27-year-old Henin retired last year after winning 41 WTA titles but decided to return because she had unfinished business in tennis. Henin’s goal is to earn a Wimbledon title, the only major she hasn’t won. She plans to play at least until the 2012 London Olympics.