x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Nervous' Henin settles into groove

The Belgian admits being emotional on her return to play Nadia Petrova at the Brisbane International.

Justine Henin of Belgium hits a return to Russia's Nadia Petrova during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane yesterday.
Justine Henin of Belgium hits a return to Russia's Nadia Petrova during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane yesterday.

Justin Henin rarely looked fazed by her surroundings before her retirement from the game 18 months ago; in her seven grand slam wins she often looked untroubled in a way only matched in the modern era by the Williams sisters. So it came as some surprise that the Belgian, 27, was nervous before her comeback match against Nadia Petrova at the Brisbane International yesterday.

"Everything seems very big - the stadium, all the people - and I'm not used to it any more," she said. "It was emotional. It was a big step, my first match, as I've been waiting for this moment for so long. But now I'm so happy - about what I did on the court, about my feelings and about winning. I have a lot of things to work on, but I think for a first match I can be really positive today." Petrova, of Russia, was dispatched 7-5, 7-5 with few signs of the nerves Henin professed to be feeling. "I was nervous but served well when I had to and took my few opportunities on the return," she said.

The win gave Henin plenty of confidence, but her aim for her comeback is to win Wimbledon - the only grand slam trophy she has not lifted - in July. Petrova was in no doubt over her conqueror's ability, tipping her to win this tournament, but it is the might of Venus and Serena Williams who Henin must prove herself against. Kim Clijsters proved it can be done by taking last year's US Open title, and there is every chance of her taking on Henin in the final here in an early test.

Meanwhile, the Serbian Ana Ivanovic, who has always attracted a lot of attention on court despite not winning a tournament last year, was a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victor over Jelena Dokic. The Australian gave up 11 double faults to aid Ivanovic's passage. Richard Gasquet, like Ivanovic, has few good memories from 2009. He ended the year on a high note when the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared him of wrongdoing after he had tested positive for cocaine in March.

The Frenchman's defence, that the drug had entered his system after he had kissed a woman who had taken it, was believed. This year started much better for him, as he recorded a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over the Finnish Jarkko Nieminen. Andy Roddick, the top seed, was not unduly troubled by the Australian Peter Luczak. The American recorded a 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win. Andy Murray impressed as he started the year with a 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Andrey Golubev as Britain took on Kazakhstan in the Hopman Cup.

Yarolsava Shvedova's 6-4, 3-6, 0-6 win over the teenager Laura Robson ensured the match was decided by Murray and Robson's 7-5, 3-6, 12-10 success in the doubles. Igor Andreev inspired Russia to a 2-1 victory over Germany in the earlier session with victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber before teaming up with Elena Dementieva to defeat Kohlschreiber and Sabine Lisicki in the deciding doubles match.

lthornhill@thenational.ae