The former women's world No1 Justine Henin has admitted she has not completely ruled out making a return to the tennis circuit in the future. The diminutive Belgian surprisingly called time on her career in May, just weeks before the French Open, which she had won on four occasions. When announcing her retirement, Henin, 26, insisted she would not backtrack on her decision, but she has now indicated she could return one day.
"I can never say for sure that I'll never be back because I hate to say never," she said. Despite this, the seven-time grand slam winner concedes that a return to the court remains a highly unlikely scenario. "When I do something, I do it 200 per cent, and when I decide it is over, it is over," she added. "I decided this for myself and I have been amazed by the support of the people around me. A lot of people have understood the decision that I made.
"Being a professional athlete is quite difficult and you make a lot of sacrifices. You need to eat tennis, sleep tennis and live tennis and give 300 per cent all the time. I have been doing that for 20 years." Henin's retirement left her with gaping holes in her diary that have been filled by a return to academic studies and her involvement with the establishment of a tennis academy in her native Belgium.
While busy with other pursuits, Henin has still had the time to monitor events at Wimbledon, the only grand slam crown that eluded her during a nine-year professional career and the source of her biggest professional regret. "It has been the biggest disappointment of my career," she said of her failure to win at SW19. "It has a great tradition, I love it but my game was not quite good enough and I probably was not confident enough to win on grass on reflection."
Henin, meanwhile, is tipping Venus Williams - the woman who beat her in the 2001 final - to claim a fifth title at the All England Club come Saturday. "I keep thinking that Venus is the best player on grass," she said. "She's so big and tall, so, for me, she has to be the favourite to win it." * PA Sport