Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Justin Henin says the "fire burns again" little than a week after watching Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters come out of retirement to win the US Open.
Justin Henin says the 'fire burns again' little than a week after watching Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters come out of retirement to win the US Open.

Henin to return to competitive tennis

The former world No 1 targets the Dubai exhibition tournament as part of her comeback from retirement.

"Anything you can do I can do better", boomed out from the world's top theatres when Annie Get Your Gun was in vogue. Intense but healthy Belgian rivalry brought that memorable musical line to mind in celebrating the curtain going up on a welcome reprise of Juju Get Your Racket. Rumours that Justine Henin was planning a comeback had been gathering pace for the last few weeks. Henin, known as "Juju" by her fans, had shocked everyone by retiring at the peak of her powers as world No 1 in May last year. The emotional sight of Kim Clijsters winning the US Open, barely a month after announcing her return, helped to turn those rumours into an exciting reality. If Clijsters, who described the proposed return of her old rival as "brilliant", can add a second major honour to her collection so swiftly, then 'what is Henin capable of?' was the question going through the minds of those advising the enigmatic player with seven grand-slam titles to her credit. The answer is that a rapid return to the pinnacle of the women's game is more than a fleeting possibility. Henin had the measure of Clijsters when their original careers were in full flow, winning 12 of their 22 WTA Tour confrontations, three of those victories coming in grand slam finals.

Henin will have some catching up to do, though, to depose Clijsters - already up to 17 on the computer - from the top of the world rankings if she is to regain her No 1 status. That stark conclusion does not reflect well on the others in the vanguard of the women's game, particularly the cluster of Eastern Europeans who have occupied the top spot since Henin walked away from the game, frustrated by a succession of injuries and the loss of her desire to compete at the top level for personal reasons. The American Williams sisters are still capable of hitting the heights when they put their minds to it and their impending collisions with the two Belgians in the early part of next year will provide the WTA with another timely boost. Henin, 27, admitted that the triumphant return of Clijsters, 26, had influenced her decision to do the same but maintained that the absence of a Wimbledon title from her career record was the main reason for her about-turn.

"Maybe subconsciously Kim's return influenced me," Henin said in announcing her decision in a live television interview. "But it wasn't the determinant factor. "Roger Federer's victory at Roland Garros [to complete an elusive career grand slam] spoke to me much more because it made me think of a lot of things in relation to Wimbledon." Henin, who won the French Open four times but lost both of her finals at the All England Club, added: "For the first time I really felt that Wimbledon was missing from my list of trophies. Winning Wimbledon is a dream. It's more than an aim, it's really a dream. "I'm giving myself the means to look to achieve great things but will that be enough to win Wimbledon? At the moment I don't have the answer to that. I know I'm going to work for it though." That fulfilment of a career ambition could come in July. Henin's return to grand-slam action, meanwhile, is scheduled for the Australian Open in January.

Before seeking to repeat her Melbourne Park success of 2004, Henin, who has amassed 41 tour titles, is planning to play in two exhibition tournaments - one in her native Belgium and the other in Dubai - although nobody in the UAE would confirm the details. The Legends Rock tournament for veterans of the men's game will not take place in Dubai this year as scheduled in November. The Capitala exhibition in Abu Dhabi, which attracted six of the world's top 10 men in January, is due to go ahead again at the capital's Zayed Sports City at the turn of the year. A guest appearance by Henin would give that highly-successful event added spice.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National