After Wednesday’s sudden retirement press conference, TennisGrandstand.com gives you a look at the career of Justine Henin – as compiled by Bud Collins in his new book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS in this exclusive excerpt. If you are interested in pre-ordering the book, click HERE to pre-order at a 39 percent off pre-sale price.
There’s not much there, as far as physique goes, but within that 5-foot-5, 126 pound frame churns a highly competitive heart and the flair of an artist who plays the game with superlative grace and style. Flitting across the court quickly, nimbly, Justine Henin is a model of complete greatness, at home anywhere in the rectangle, baseline or net.
A right-hander with a stunning one-handed backhand drive, she grasped No. 1 for a year (2003), then returned for 2006-07, and will be very difficult to unseat as she gains momentum.
A brilliant 2007 contained nine titles – among them a fourth French, second U.S. – and new zest based on heightened happiness in her personal life. Reconnecting with her family after a period of estrangement, and unconnecting with husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne (as Henin-Hardenne she won five of her seven majors), gave Justine an emotional lift. Her dash to the 2007 U.S. title was particularly satisfying since she had to erase the Williams family in succession, Serena in the quarterfinals, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, and Venus in the semifinals, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, before a 6-1, 6-3, crushing of Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, her 6-4, 6-4, victim in the 2006 French final.
Born June 1, 1982, Liege, Belgium, she turned pro 1999, coached by Carlos Rodriguez throughout. She played Federation Cup for six years, 1999 – 03, 06, played 11 ties with a 15-3 singles, 0-2 doubles record. She helped win Cup for Belgium in 2001 and reach a final in 2006. She won the 2004 Olympic singles gold, defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-3.
She won seven major singles titles – Australian, 2004, defeating countrywomen Kim Clijsters, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; French, 2003, defeating Clijsters again, 6-0, 6-4; 2005, defeating Mary Pierce of France, 6-1, 6-1; 2006, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-4, 6-4; 2007, defeating Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-1, 6-2; U.S., 2003, defeating Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1; 2007, defeating Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-3. She lost four major singles finals: Australian, 2006, to Amelie Mauresmo of France, 6-1, 2-0, ret; Wimbledon, 2001, to Venus Williams of the United States, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0; 2006, to Mauresmo, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; U.S., 2006, to Maria Sharapova of Russia, 6-4, 6-4.
Henin also made the semifinals of the Australian, 2003, French, 2001, Wimbledon, 2002-03, 07; the quarterfinals of the Australian, 2002 and 2008. From 2001, she has spent seven straight years in the Top 10: Nos. 7, 5, 1, 8, 6, 1, 1.
She has overcome numerous injuries and illnesses, and the negative publicity that accompanied her quitting the 2006 Australian final to Mauresmo, behind, 6-1, 2-0, claiming a stomach ache. But she showed her spunk during the 2003 U.S. Open. Somehow she beat Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in the semifinals in 3:03 (ending 12:27AM Saturday morning), even though Capriati was two points from victory 11 times, and served for it at 5-3 in the 2nd and 3rd sets. Justine, cramping in the third set, needed IV attention following the match. Yet later in the day took the championship, beating Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1, avoiding two set points at 4-5, 15-40.
As the first to win three straight French since Monica Seles, 1990-92, Justine revels in the Parisian earth, thrilled as a little girl brought to Roland Garros by her mother. She won two season-ending WTA Tour Championships – 2006 defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-3; 2007 defeating Maria Sharapova (3hrs 24min) 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. In 2007, she was the first woman to end a season with more than $5 million in prize money in a season – $5,367,086.
Other prominent singles titles won include the German Open three times – 2002, defeating S. Williams, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 2003, defeating Clijsters, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 2005, defeating Nadia Petrova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. She also won the Canadian Open in 2003, defeating. Lina Krasnoroutskaya, 6-1, 6-0 and Indian Wells in 2004, defeating Lindsay Davenport, 6-1, 6-4.
During her career, she won 41 singles (489-105 matches), two doubles pro titles. $19,461,375 prize money. She unexpectedly announced her immediate retirement from the game, the first No.1 to do so, on May 14, 2008.