In Melbourne, one of the most dominant signs read Just In Time, a tribute to Justine Henin’s return to the tour.
The popular 5’ 5 1/2” Belgian dynamo returned to the tour after a nearly an 18 month leave of absence and immediately stormed to the forefront.
In her very first event, the unseeded Henin put away Nadia Petrova, the two seed, in the first round at Brisbane and then marched to the finals. She succumbed to Kim Clijsters, another Belgian comeback player, in the finals but clearly staked her claim to the elite level of women’s tennis.
Henin is the only player to have retired at the very top of her game and at the top of the women’s tennis rankings. Justine is a competitor extraordinaire. She has to be. Lacking the tall, muscular frame of many of the tour’s top players, Justine must rely on strategy, poise, stinging ground strokes and meticulous physical preparation to earn her victories.
The formula has worked well for Henin. With more than $20 million in career earnings, 41 career singles titles, and seven Grand Slam titles, she s the toughest unseeded player ever to hit the tour. Despite her final appearance at Brisbane and her final appearance in Melbourne, she will remain unseeded for this week’s tough Indian Wells event.
Don’t count her out! With 503 career wins against just 109 losses, it takes nerve to bet against the fleet, determined Belgian. She has the endurance to wear harder hitters down and has had great success in three set matches. It’s just what she does. She does not have the emotional outbursts or grunting annoyances that typify other prima donnas on the tour. Instead, Justine Henin plays to the last point of every match.
Henin turned pro in 1999. She won her first tournament at Antwerp at 17 years old. At 18, in 2000, she broke into the top 50 but captured no titles. In 2001, Justine raised the bar and the future looked very good indeed.
The Belgian jumped into the top ten, won three tour titles, reached the semis at Roland Garros and the finals at Wimbledon. Justine was now a player to be reckoned with. She reached number 1 in 2003, winning a remarkable 75 matches and reaching the semifinals or better in 18 of the 19 events in which she played. She claimed both the French Open and the U.S. Open to nail down her first two Grand Slam events.
Justine is a streaky player. Much of her success relies upon holding her less than intimidating service. In 2004, Henin started the year aggressively, winning the Australian Open and winning her fist 16 matches. However, a respiratory disease began to take its toll. She was able to rally to claim the gold medal at the Olympics but finished the year at number four. She withdrew from several tournaments at the end of the season.
After finishing a number 6 in 2005, Henin rebounded to claim the top ranking in both 2006 and 2007. How can it be, that the player nobody wants to play is unseeded again this week at Indian Wells? It may bother her fans, but Justine seems to relish the underdog role. Watch out for this fireball again this week.
|Birth Date||June 1, 1982 (27)|
|Height||5’ 5 ¾”|
|Year Turned Pro||1999|
|Current Rank – Singles||999|
|Current Rank – Doubles||999|
|Career Prize Earnings||$20,352,606|
|Year-To- Date – Earnings||$891,231|
|Grand Slam (Singles)||7|
|Grand Slam Doubles||0|
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