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“This was unexpected.” The first racket in the world retired just before Roland Garros – 2008

Date: June 25, 2024 Time: 11:03:58

Tennis players usually retire at an early age. The reasons are mainly injuries, pregnancy, strong decline on the court, but there are exceptions to the rule.

In 2008, the legendary Belgian Justine Henin suddenly took on her racket as the undisputed leader of the WTA rankings. Furthermore, the 25-year-old tennis player did it just before Roland Garros, the Grand Slam tournament in which she had her best performance. A couple of years ago, at the same age, the Australian Ashleigh Barty left, she also being the first racket. Still, Barty was expecting a child, but Henin’s case gave rise to a series of scandalous insinuations.

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He achieved everything and finished his career at the age of 25. What is Justine Henin like and what does she do now?

Seven-time Grand Slam champion, winner of 43 WTA titles, Justine Henin achieved success in tennis, although her physical characteristics clearly did not contribute to this. The Belgian, with a height of 167 cm, was inferior in size and power to her rivals, especially Serena Williams, whose aggressive style many tried to copy in the 2000s. Henin also used the one-handed backhand, while the vast majority of his colleagues preferred the two-handed backhand. At the same time, Justine did not play defense. She simply put her opponents out of work due to movement and technique, not force.

In the 2003 season, Henin won Roland Garros and the US Open, allowing her to become the number one racket player in the world. Then there was a certain stagnation (if you can call it that), although the Belgian still grabbed a “helmet” for the next two years. And then Henin reached an absolutely dominant level.

Justine Henin dominated the court in 2007

Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

In the 2006-2007 seasons, Henin showed the greatest stability on the WTA circuit. She played in seven TBS: in six of them she reached the final and won three majors. During this period, she won 16 titles in 21 finals and 110 wins in 121 matches (91%). In 2006, Justine, for the first time since the legendary Steffi Graf in 1993, reached the final of all Slams and the final. And in 2007, Justine won 10 titles (the most important at Roland Garros, the United States Open, the “thousands” in Toronto and Zurich) and became the first tennis player in history to earn more than five million dollars. in prizes in one year.

Henin began the 2008 season with a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open. For her, this result could be considered unsuccessful, but no tragedy occurred. In the “thousands” Justine was eliminated in the quarterfinals in Miami and in the third round in Berlin, which in general cannot be considered a problem either. She took titles in relatively minor tournaments in Sydney and Antwerp, and the gap in the WTA rankings with her pursuers remained huge due to last year’s groundwork.

Of course, Justine herself noticed a certain decline in her game. She decided to withdraw from the unpaved “mil” in Rome, citing overwork. So it seemed like a strategic move to save strength before Roland Garros, which the Belgian won four times in five years (2003, 2005-2007) and it seemed that she was going to lift the cup over her head again in Paris.

What a surprise the tennis community received when on May 14, 2008, Henin called an urgent press conference and announced the end of his sporting career.

“I know this is unexpected, but I have decided to end my career as of today. This is not an emotional decision, but a thoughtful step. Those who know me well can confirm that this is all serious. I leave with my head held high, without regrets. I started playing tennis when I was five years old and in total I dedicated 20 years to this activity.

Now is the time to give way to the young people. I hope I have left a mark in the history of tennis and it remains in the memories of the fans. I’d like to think I can do something more now. My decision is firm. I continue to be the first racket in the world, this is very important to me. It’s always better to leave while you’re at the top,” Henin told reporters.

Justine Henin’s retirement announcement surprised the tennis world

Photo: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Justine’s decision was a real sensation not only for the fans, but also for her rivals. Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Amelie Mauresmo congratulated Justine. Not everyone had a normal relationship with her, but her sudden departure took them by surprise and all that remained was to pay tribute to a very strong competitor. What can we say, even the world’s first racket player in men’s tennis, the Swiss Roger Federer, was shocked by this turn.

“This news was a shock to the entire tennis world, since Justine is number one. I’m sure she had her reasons for doing this, but this is a complete surprise. Leaving a week before Roland Garros, where she has always been so successful, and Wimbledon, which she has never won. It’s a shame that Justine is retiring from tennis. She is a special player who can play successfully on any surface. This is very unusual in women’s tennis. She also distinguished herself by the fact that she managed to win so many tournaments while she was so small. This is despite the fact that most new players are quite tall, which gives them an advantage. I can’t imagine what could make the world number one quit. She had some injuries and also this thing with her ex-husband, maybe it was too much for her and she couldn’t continue on the tour anymore,” Federer said.

Roger is usually a man of few words, but in the case of the news about the end of his career, Henin spoke very in depth. The most important question is the reason for the Belgian’s sudden departure at the age of 25 as the world’s first racket before her favorite clay court Slam? Federer couldn’t imagine what prompted Justine to take that step. He mentioned injuries, but all tennis players face them from time to time. Although Henin suffered in this regard, it was not critically.

Roger also referred to the story with the tennis player’s ex-husband, Pierre-Yves Ardenne. At the beginning of the 2007 season, Henin did not attend the Australian Open because he was dealing with divorce proceedings. Pierre-Yves Ardenne is a former amateur tennis player who Justine started dating back in 1998, when she was 16 years old. Her father and the tennis player’s brothers immediately did not like her chosen one, so they practically did not communicate for 10 years.

Henin chose Pierre-Yves and the couple married in 2002. The happiness did not last long. Information regularly appeared in the Belgian media that Ardenne gambled in a casino, cheated on his wife and was simply a gigolo who lived at his expense. It is logical that everything ended in divorce, and scandalous at that. Pierre-Yves was worried about drawing up a marriage contract, according to which Justine had to pay him a substantial fine for the separation. According to the newspaper Le Derniere Heure, Henin gave her ex-husband €6.5 million, as well as a Cessna private jet and luxury apartments in Monte Carlo.

Of course, the divorce story could have an emotional impact on Justine’s confidence, but it’s been over a year. Furthermore, in the 2007 season, Henin showed no signs that this was bothering him in any way. So this Federer theory seemed untenable.

It wouldn’t hurt to repeat it again. World number one Henin came out on top, ahead of her closest pursuer, Maria Sharapova, by 1,710 points in the WTA rankings. She recently received the prestigious Laureus Sportsman of the Year award and shined on the red carpet during the ceremony at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg along with Roger Federer, who won a similar award for men.

Roger Federer and Justine Henin at the Laureus ceremony in Saint Petersburg

Photo: John Gichigi/Getty Images

Furthermore, Henin left just before Roland Garros, where he could well have competed for victory even in poor form and in the presence of other distractions.

As a result, Henin was present at RG, but as a spectator. After the final, she presented the trophy to Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, who defeated Russia’s Dinara Safina in the title match. But a year earlier, Henin herself crushed Ivanovich herself (6-1, 6-2) in the decisive match, when she once again took the cup at the Paris Clay Slam.

Justine Henin presented awards to the Roland Garros finalists – 2008

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

And all this happened considering that Justine has always been extremely competitive and thirsty to win. She sometimes didn’t even have qualms about acting inappropriately with her rivals. One of the striking examples of her is the 2004 Australian Open final against her compatriot Kim Clijsters, when Henin deliberately pressured the judge and forced him to make a wrong decision in her favor at a key moment in the match. There was also a similar incident in the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2003, when Serena Williams was very unhappy with Justine’s behavior.

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The champion was accused of obvious cheating. Strong scandal in the final of the Australian Open – 2004

The Belgian media immediately began looking for traps in the story of Henin’s abrupt end to his career. The following rumor spread widely: Justine left for fear of being discovered for doping. Henin supposedly made a tacit agreement with senior tennis officials that, to avoid a major scandal, she would cover her racket herself and everything would look decent to the public.

Justine preferred not to react to this information, but added some journalists to her “blacklist.” The scandalous materials did not end there. The stir was fueled by Leo Clijsters, Kim’s father. In 2003, he claimed that Henin’s muscle mass had suddenly doubled. He did not make any direct accusation of doping, but the implication was clearly visible. In 2008, Leo made statements again, noting the metamorphosis of Henin’s physique.

Het Laatste Nieuws, Le Soir and other publications published materials linking Justine to possible doping. We also found quite a few authoritative speakers. Not only Kim Clijsters’ father, but also the famous Belgian tennis player Christopher Rochus, who did not believe in Henin’s honesty. The 1998 Wimbledon finalist, French Nathalie Tauzia, did the same.

“I wish someone could explain how a girl can almost double her size in three or four months. I don’t mean that she has gained a little weight, but rather changes at a muscular level. I saw with my own eyes how this happened and it bothers me,” Tozia said.

There was no direct evidence of Henin’s guilt, so everything remained at the level of innuendo. Although Justine once again had to hear many unpleasant things directed at her when in September 2009 she announced that she was “recharging her batteries” and returning to tour. She observed a suspicious period of inactivity: 15 months. She supposedly served her unofficial sentence and immediately decided to return. The Belgian did not comment on the matter either.

Henin called the main goal of his comeback the desire to win Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam tournament he did not enter. On the grass courts of London, Justine played in the final twice, but lost to Venus Williams (2001) and Amelie Mauresmo (2006). She still had three semi-finals left, so she still had the feeling of having unfinished business. Justine admitted that Roger Federer’s victory at Roland Garros 2009, when the Swiss finally claimed the Grand Slam of his career, was an inspiring example for her.

The resumption of Henin’s career was not charming, although the start seemed promising. Justine immediately reached the final of the 2010 Australian Open, but she lost to Serena. In May, the Belgian won the title on her favorite soil, Stuttgart, defeating Australian Samantha Stosur in the final. Although a little later Stosur took revenge on her, knocking out at Roland Garros in the fourth round.

Justine Henin at Wimbledon 2010

Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

But still, Justine made her main bet on Wimbledon. In June she became champion of the grass tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, beating German Andrea Petkovic in the final. It seemed like a good test for the oldest. In the first matches of Wimbledon 2010, Henin confidently beat the Latvian Anastasia Sevastova, the German Christina Barrois and the Russian Nadezhda Petrova, but in the fourth round she lost to her main rival and compatriot Kim Clijsters with a score of 2:6, 6: 2, 3:6. . Midway through the first set, Henin injured her elbow, but she still took the game. She then played with the pain, which did not lead to anything good. Justine lost to Kim, did not win Wimbledon and was away for several months, missing the US Open.

Henin returned to the Australian Open. In the third round she lost to the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, after which she announced her retirement. Her elbow injury was still bothering Justine and she no longer saw any chance of winning Wimbledon in the future. That’s why I decided not to torture myself and leave, this time for good.

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Soon Henin gave an interview to the Belgian television channel RTBF, in which he spoke in detail about his career for the first time. Among other things, she admitted her own dishonesty and said that she regretted her behavior in the controversial moments during the aforementioned matches with Serena and Clijsters in Paris and Melbourne. She also finally responded to the doping accusations.

“It hurts me to have to deal with rumors about doping. I will never forgive those who dissolve them. Why didn’t I respond to the accusations sooner? They advised me not to stoop to this, not to pay attention. “I didn’t like being stepped on and now I regret not listening to my gut and not responding immediately,” Henin said.

A person whose misconduct is clearly proven may be considered guilty. Nothing similar happens in the case of Justine Henin. She remains one of the best tennis players of the 21st century and history in general. After finishing her degree, Henin performed successfully. Her tennis academy operates in Brussels, whose most famous students were Elina Svitolina and Sofia Zhuk. TV channels often invite Justine to major tennis tournaments as an expert. In her personal life everything is fine too. In 2015 she married actor Benoit Bertuzzo, with whom she has two children: her daughter Lali and her son Victor.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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