x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Henin not ready yet but return for Australian Open

The former world No 1 said she will nurse an elbow injury through next month¿s Australian Open, and she may be six months away from full strength.

Justine Henin will return at the Hopman Cup on Saturday.
Justine Henin will return at the Hopman Cup on Saturday.

The former world No 1 Justine Henin said she will nurse an elbow injury through next month's Australian Open, and she may be six months away from full strength.

Henin will make her return from injury at the Hopman Cup mixed-teams event which starts in Perth, Australia on Saturday, ensuring she will play at least three singles and three doubles matches before the first grand slam of the season.

The seven-time grand-slam winner, who last played a major event at Wimbledon in June, said her elbow has not completely healed and would have to be closely monitored in the lead-up to the Australian Open in Melbourne.

"It is six months since the injury and I can't say I am 100 per cent," Henin said yesterday.

"I am working very hard on it and I spend two hours every day on my rehabilitation.

"When we heard about the serious injury there were concerns about the future of my career as it was pretty serious.

"Now, step by step, I can improve, but it will probably take a few more weeks and maybe months before I can be 100 per cent."

Henin said she was not yet free of pain when she played but was "going in the right direction".

She said hard work and discipline had enabled her to return to the court in time for the Australian Open.

In last year's Australian Open, the Belgian emerged from almost two years in retirement and made the final, where she pushed Serena Williams to three sets.

However, she is tempering expectations of a similarly impressive performance in Melbourne this year.

"I am realistic, it is my comeback, it has been a difficult year," she said. "I started the season pretty well, but then physically it has been pretty difficult.

"It hasn't been an easy comeback, and a serious injury like that just six months after I came back was the worst for me."

Williams will miss this year's event due to a long-term foot injury, meaning there will be no strong favourite in the women's draw in Australia this year, yet Henin said it will take until mid-year before she can be counted among the contenders.

"No one is dominating women's tennis," she said. "There are a lot of ups and downs.

"Serena [Williams] is not going to be there so it is going to be wide open, but I don't consider myself one of the biggest favourites.

"I hope I can build my condition this year by playing tournaments, and hope to be really ready around June-July. That would be great for me."