All eyes will be on Belgian comeback queens Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters when the second Brisbane International tennis tournament begins tomorrow.
Former world No. 1 Henin is using the Brisbane tournament to launch her return to professional tennis, while Clijsters will be out to maintain the momentum of her comeback last year, which breathed new life into the women’s professional tour thanks to her win at the US Open in August.
With the tournament also featuring Serbia’s glamorous Ana Ivanovic and Russian Nadia Petrova, the women have garnered almost all the attention despite the presence in the men’s draw of players such as Andy Roddick and Gael Monfils.
The 27-year-old Henin sent an ominous warning to her rivals when she arrived in Brisbane this week claiming she would become a better player than when she retired in May last year.
The Belgian spent a total of 117 weeks at No. 1 and claimed 41 singles titles, including seven Grand Slams.
She announced her comeback in September, soon after her compatriot and fierce rival Clijsters won the US Open, and said this week she would return to the tour a more relaxed player.
“I believe I can be a better player,” Henin said. “I believe I can use my experience more than in the past.”
Another former world No. 1, Ivanovic, will be hoping the tournament marks her return to the top flight after a loss of form and a run of injuries saw her ranking fall to No. 22.
Ivanovic, already a crowd favorite in Australia because of the country’s large Serbian community, has endeared herself to locals even further thanks to her relationship with Queensland golfer Adam Scott, with newspapers renaming her “Aussie Ana.”
Clijsters looks likely to be named top seed for the tournament, ahead of Petrova, Ivanovic and Slovak Daniela Hantuchova.
The men’s draw is headed by Roddick, Monfils and Czech duo Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych.
Also featured is Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who was given the all-clear from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to play in Australia following a three-month ban for cocaine use. The CAS accepted his argument that the small traces of the drug in his system were the result of kissing a girl in a Miami nightclub.
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