Tennis is a sport for insomniacs. It’s played nearly all year and at all hours, so if you so much as blink, or in most cases take a nap, you might miss something monumentally important. Lately, I seem to have slept through some of the most shocking moments in tennis and last night was no different. When I finally got around to checking twitter, I had to ask myself whether this was 2011 or 2008. The very first tweet that I saw was from @WTATour saying, “Seven-time Grand Slam champion @Justine_Henin has announced her retirement from professional tennis. You’ll be missed Justine!”
In case you’ve been living in a hole, I’ll explain. Between 2003 and 2007, Justine Henin won seven Grand Slam titles, including 4 French Opens, 2 US Opens, and 1 Australian Open, as well as an Olympic gold medal and 2 WTA Championships. Going into the 2008 season, Henin was celebrating one year as the No. 1 player in the world. She appeared to have a near lock on the title at Roland Garros and was generally pegged as the favorite for that year’s tournament. Then, just one week before the start of the clay court major, Henin called a press conference and announced her retirement from tennis. This was truly shocking. It’s not often that the No. 1 player in the world, at the age of 25, opts to call it quits, particularly the week before her favorite Slam. Actually, Henin was the only woman to retire while still ranking No. 1.
At the time of her first retirement, she stated, “I am leaving as the world No. 1 and that is important as it is always better to go out at the top, I leave without any regrets and I know it is the right decision.” Clearly, she had regrets because at the end of the 2009 season, she announced her return to tennis in 2010. She was motivated by the idea of finally winning Wimbledon and achieving a career Grand Slam, as Roger Federer had done in 2009. She intended to continue playing through the 2012 Olypmics.
Justine’s comeback seemed almost as good as Kim Clijsters’ when she reached the final at the Australian Open, only her second tournament back on tour. She seemed well on track to finally attain the illusive career Grand Slam at Wimbledon. But things came to a crashing halt when she injured her elbow after falling in her 4th round match against compatriot Kim Clijsters. The injury was grave and cost Henin the rest of the season, but there was little doubt that she would return to the tour healthy and get back to her winning ways. Henin warned the world that she came to Australia not 100%, but ready to compete. Unfortunately, her Australian Open ended early when she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 3rd round.
Somehow Justine managed to shock us all over again this morning, by announcing her retirement from professional tennis, again. This time, there will be no coming back. Justine released a letter to her fans saying, “After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, it is now clear and I accept that my career here … … finally ends. Even though it’s hard, very hard, while I came back with a tremendous fighting spirit. I’m sorry … I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending. I will need time to process all this, but I remain convinced that even with little progress, my level with my return did not meet my expectations, despite everything I’ve learned a lot over the past 15 months.”
Whether you’re a fan or not, Justine is a great champion and has contributed a great deal to this sport. It’s a real shame that resurgence was cut short because of an injury. I offer the best of luck to Justine in her future endeavors.