Justine Henin is targeting the Australian Open for her official comeback after confirming her decision to come out of retirement tonight.
The former world number one quit the sport in May 2008 but this evening announced her return just over a week after fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters capped her retirement U-turn with a second US Open title.
Henin, who had previously insisted her decision to retire was final, is delighted to be going back on her word.
“I’m really happy and deeply moved to be able to announce tonight that I’m coming back to competitive tennis,” Henin told RTL-TVI.
“I know it’s surprising because on 14 May 2008 I put a definitive end to my tennis career but then there was a long personal path throughout these past 15 months, which was enriching.
“I discovered a lot of things about myself and that allowed me to feel things again and then there was a flame that was re-lit which I had thought had been put out forever.”
Henin hopes to be back on the courts in January for the Australian Open – a tournament she won in 2004.
However, the 27-year-old admits she is struggling as she is forced to get back to basics.
“The goal is to come back in January, in Australia. But I don’t know,” continued Henin. “I have four months and I don’t know how my preparation is going to develop, but that’s the aim.
“It’s hard when you used to be able to do things so well, as I did in the past, to have to start again from the basics, with patience which isn’t my greatest quality.
“So I have a lot of work ahead of me but day by day I’m finding there are little things that are getting better.
“I think that the most difficult thing will be creating the foundations as I know I have slowed down and I used to be a really really quick player and that was my main quality but that will happen soon.
“I just have to be patient, accept that it will take time and work hard every day – and that’s what I’m doing.
Henin added: “It’s going well, there’s a lot of pleasure on the court and that’s the most important thing.
“I’m getting back all those old feelings day by day and that’s really pleasing.”
Henin has won seven grand slams, but has never triumphed at Wimbledon.
She reached the final twice but lost to Venus Williams in 2001 and Amelie Mauresmo five years later, and coach Carlos Rodriguez has revealed her desire to finally triumph in south-west London played a major part in her decision.
“I swear I was extremely surprised,” he said. “I really wasn’t expecting it at all but I think she took this decision as she normally does, with a lot of reflection.
“I’m happy because at the end of the day it’s what she loves.
“She has entrusted me (to be her coach) once again and I will try to never let her down.
“I’m very happy to be helping her to restart her new life. It’s a super challenge for her.
“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 has been back in training for several weeks now, and Rodriguez is confident she will be back to her world-beating best by the new year.
“The work is going to be a long road,” he added. “We have to try to cancel out over a year’s inactivity.
“And we have to do that slowly.
“But I think that with six months of training, slowly but surely, we’ll arrive at a good point.”