Henin eyes elusive Wimbledon title

Henin eyes elusive Wimbledon title

If the sporting scriptwriters have a fairytale in mind for next summer then surely there can only be one winner at SW19 on July 3.

When Justine Henin announced her comeback in September it was with her failure to win Wimbledon foremost in her mind.

The Belgian spearheaded the challenge to the Williams sisters over much of the last decade, winning seven grand slam titles, two Sony Ericsson Championships and an Olympic gold medal.

She was still ranked number one in the world when she decided, in May last year, to retire at the age of 25.

Henin was tired of a sport she had dedicated 20 years of her life to and vowed that was it, she would never be back.

There is no doubt the sport was poorer for her absence; missing her artistry and guts – and that backhand.

It appears the feeling was mutual, and it was the Venus Rosewater dish that played a big part in luring the 27-year-old back to tennis.

Her long-time coach Carlos Rodriguez said: “I certainly see her winning Wimbledon and I’ll do everything for that.

“It’s one of the main reasons she’s come back, we want this fourth title and I’ll do everything to help her do it.”

Henin was twice a beaten finalist at the All England Club, losing to Venus Williams in 2001 and Amelie Mauresmo five years later.

Completing her collection of grand slam titles would put her alongside Serena Williams as the only current player to own the set.

The difference in stature between the two players gives an indication why the 5ft 6in Henin grew weary of fighting an unequal struggle.

Talking about her change of heart, Henin said: “These moments gave me an opportunity to focus only on myself and it helped me realise that I still had many things yet to achieve.

“I need to push the limits higher and explore new challenges. The challenge today is not about understanding size limitations but of raising dimensions.”

That she is prepared to once again battle against players substantially taller and stronger is a much-needed boost for a women’s game that is sorely lacking in household names and variety.

The Williams sisters divide opinion but the WTA Tour know how vital they are to retaining interest in a top 10 dominated by identikit Eastern Europeans.

Maria Sharapova remains a very marketable asset but she has yet to show she can hit the heights on the court again following shoulder problems.

Henin will launch her competitive comeback in Brisbane on January 4. Also in the field will be another Belgian, Kim Clijsters.

While Henin insists her countrywoman’s astonishing success in winning the US Open barely a month after ending her own period in retirement had nothing to do with her decision, it must at the very least have cemented the belief she was doing the right thing.

Their rivalry was a compelling alternative to the Williams show but, although Clijsters had some success in head-to-heads against Henin, she won only one slam in her original spell on the tour.

’If she can do it’, Henin must have thought, ’then so can I’.

There are positive signs for the WTA Tour outside of Belgium, too.

Exciting Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki was beaten by Clijsters in New York in her first slam final and her wait will surely not be too long, while American Melanie Oudin already has a high profile and is on the rise.

But it is Henin’s return that excites most, and the tennis world will have a big smile on its face when she unleashes a first backhand in anger.

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