Tennis Ace Justine Henin Retires

Posted on: 16 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Women's world number one Justine Henin has announced her shock retirement from the sport with immediate effect.

The tennis world was shocked this week after confirmation that world number one Justine Henin had announced her intention to retire from the sport with immediate effect.

The surprise news came less than two weeks before the 25-year-old was due to begin the defence of her French Open title.

She has won at Roland Garros four times, including each of the last three years and has seven Grand Slam titles to her name.

Henin won 41 WTA singles titles and more than $19 million in prize money after turning professional in 1999.

She also won the WTA Tour Championships twice and the singles gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Speaking in her native Belgium, she felt no sadness about her retirement because she believed it was a release from the game she had focused on for 20 years.

Henin said, "It's the end of a wonderful adventure but it's something I have been thinking about for a long time.

"At the end of the match in Berlin last week, all of a sudden there was something evident. I decided to stop fooling myself and accept it.

"I am leaving as the world number one and that is important and it is always better to go out at the top. I leave without regrets and I know it is the right decision."

Despite winning three of the four Grand Slams on offer, Henin never got her hands on the Wimbledon trophy despite reaching the final in 2001 and 2006.

She has struggled with injury and fatigue this season and pulled out of the Italian Open this week after losing to Dinara Safina in the third round in Berlin before deciding to hang up her racquet at the top.

"Winning Wimbledon would not have made me any happier. I didn't feel I was capable of winning there.

"I stopped before Roland Garros because I asked myself if I could produce a better Roland Garros than last year and I realised I couldn't."

Tennis experts cited her mental toughness, the completeness and variety of her game, foot-speed and foot-work as the key elements to making her one of the modern greats.

John McEnroe described her one-handed backhand as the best in the women's or men's game whilst tennis legend Billie-Jean King believes Henin should be regarded as the best player in modern women's tennis.

The diminutive Belgian was the first woman to walk away from the sport while top of the rankings, while her remarkable feat of winning 10 titles since 2007 is still very much fresh in the memory.

Her year in 2007 was quite simply astonishing. Henin won 63 of 67 matches with a win percentage of 94 per cent, a mind-boggling success ratio in today's competitive circuit.

Yet it was also a remarkable year in her personal life.

In January, she pulled out of the Australian Open after her split from her husband of four years.

She never revealed the reasons behind the break-up, just as she has never explained why she became estranged from her father and brothers following the death of her mother when she was 12.

However by the French Open last year, the family were reconciled following a near-fatal car accident involving her brother David, and Henin was able to share her historic title win with them.

Her retirement from the sport brings more questions than answers but after dominating the women's game for so long, perhaps she no longer wants to lead the gruelling life of a tennis professional.

Mark O'Haire

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