Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 20 News List

World No. 1 Henin quits tennis

GAME OVER The winner of seven Grand Slam titles said it was 'the end of a wonderful adventure' when she announced her immediate retirement from the game in Brussels

AGENCIES , BRUSSELS

Belgian world No. 1 Justine Henin celebrates defeating Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan 6-0, 6-2 after their match at the German Open in Berlin on May 7.

PHOTO: EPA

Justine Henin, the world's top-ranked women's player and winner of seven Grand Slam titles, said at a press conference yesterday that she planned to retire with immediate effect.

The 25-year-old Belgian, who has been in a bad slump all spring, called a news conference for 1400 GMT.

Belgian newspapers had earlier reported she was retiring.

“It’s the end of a wonderful adventure, but it’s something I have been thinking about for a long time,” she told a news conference

“Henin wanted to ponder her future. And in that future, tennis has no part, the sport that turned the Walloon girl into one of the best-known female athletes in the world,” the Standaard newspaper said.

WTA Tour officials in Rome said they had not received any official communication from Henin.

Henin, who has battled through injuries and a divorce, had a standout season last year, winning two Grand Slam championships, eight other tour titles and more than US$5 million in prize money.

However, after winning her home tournament in Antwerp in February, she has been on one of the worst skids of her career, failing to go beyond the quarter-finals at any event.

Henin’s year began with a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, followed by a 6-2, 6-0 drubbing by Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open last month, the worst loss for a top-ranked player in nine years.

At last week’s German Open, Henin was upset 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 by Dinara Safina in the third round and then pulled out of this week’s Italian Open, citing fatigue.

Last year, Belgium’s Kim Clijsters — a former No. 1 player — retired at age 23. She has since gotten married and become a mother.

Yesterday’s news conference came less than two weeks before the start of Henin’s favorite tournament, the French Open, which she has won the past three years, as well as in 2003. She also won the Australian Open in 2004, and the US Open in 2003 and last year.

The only Grand Slam title to elude Henin is Wimbledon, where she was runner-up in 2001 and 2006.

Henin has been ranked No. 1 since Nov. 13, 2006, except for a seven-week period last year when Sharapova held the top spot. Henin has won about US$20 million in career prize money.

Throughout her career, Henin has had to beat the odds.

With her slight 1.66m frame, she had to battle the giants in the game. With a superb one-handed backhand, amazing speed and endless determination, she rose to the top of the sport.

Henin lost her mother to cancer when she was 12 and was only reunited with her father and close family last year after almost a decade of separation. During her difficult youth, tennis gave her a sense of mission and the sport became all-encompassing.

Early last year, she divorced from Pierre-Yves Hardenne after four years of marriage.

Throughout last season, Henin said she had finally found a balance in her life between personal self-fulfillment and doggedly pursuing tennis titles. But then her game began to unravel.

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