July 21, 2024

Open Court


2007 flashback: Henin’s French Open memories

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Justine Henin’s fourth and final French Open title.

It was also her third in a row. She owned that place.

To mark the occasion, the official Roland Garros site reposted an interview with Henin, who gave birth to son Victor just this week. They did the interview a year ago when the Belgian was at the tournament doing television commentary.

Here’s a translation of some of Henin’s thoughts. The entire interview can be found here (run it through Google Translate if your French isn’t up to snuff).

On when her daughter sees posters of her mother around the site:

“Yes, yes, she knows it’s me. But it’s funny because a few days ago, she saw a photo of me as a tennis player and said to me, “Look, Mommy, there’s Justine Henin in that photo!” She disassociates, but she still knows that I’ve done some things. She knows tennis and Mommy are very connected. At the same time, it’s a little like that for me, too. I know it’s me, but maybe it’s another me despite it all because life has changed so much since then.”

On which of her four French Open titles stands out:

Henin at the 2013 French Open, two months after her daughter, Lalie, was born. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“The first one stands out, obviously, because for me winning Roland-Garros was my dream as a little girl. When I was six years old, I’d shut myself in my room and fall to the floor as if it were the Roland-Garros clay. And then I would lift my arms to the sky as if I’d won the tournament. So obviously, when that dream becomes reality, it’s extraordinary. Few people, when I was younger, believed in me. I was pretty small, a little fragile. I’d had a few hardships in my life too so in the end, few people thought I’d have the mental (strength) to get there.

“The last one stands out as well. Even though obviously I couldn’t know at that moment that it was the last, I must have sensed it. It was unique for many reasons, notably because my brothers and sisters were there. It was the first time they’d seen me play in a big tournament.”

On whether people come up and tell her they miss her variety…:

Henin at the 2011 Australian Open. It turns out that was the final tournament of her career. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“Oh yes. And I miss it too, when I watch women’s tennis. That’s the way I played, but there were others. Amélie Mauresmo and I, we sort of played the same tennis. As for Serena, I admire her. I respect her and am very impressed by the fact that she’s still motivated to be there. But what I’m a little sorry about in women’s tennis is the lack of consistency from the women who could push her a little more. Because there’s a strong chance she can still dominate women’s tennis for awhile – if she wants to. It would be really great to have several players who will always show up, as might have been the case for the previous generation and maybe even the one before that.”

As the one-year anniversary of that 2007 victory approached, Henin announced her retirement just a week before the tournament on May 14, 2008. She was ranked No. 1 at the time.

Henin at the 2010 French Open. It was the last time the four-time champion would compete there as a player. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“This isn’t an exasperated, frustrated player who needs a break,” were the words from then-WTA Tour chief Larry Scott. “This is a life decision. I don’t think there’s any chance she’ll come back. Really.”

Scott was dead wrong.

Henin was back a little over a year and a half later. She reached the 2010 Australian Open final in her second tournament back.

Second career short-lived

It’s equally as hard to believe that it’s been 6 1/2 years since Henin retired the second time, after the 2011 Australian Open. She wasn’t even 30.

Henin turns 35 next month. Serena and Venus Williams are older than she is. So is Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals this year and is seeded No. 17 in Madrid this week.

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