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22 Sep 2009 11:17
Speculation was rife in Belgium on Tuesday that former world No 1 Justine Henin was set to announce she was ending her retirement and would return to tennis on the WTA tour.
Newspapers were full of the story saying that the 27-year-old Henin, who walked away from the sport in May 2008 while still atop the world rankings, would announce her return live on national television during the evening.
There was no word, one way or the other, however, from her family, friends or associates.
Talk of a Henin return started last month when it became known that she was back in training to play in exhibition matches in Charleroi, Belgium, and Dubai at the end of the year.
Then there was the stunning success of compatriot and old rival Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open in New York on September 13 just five weeks after she ended two years of retirement during which time she married and had a baby.
La Derniere Heure wrote that Henin had been in training for three months and that she had reformed her coaching and fitness teams.
The paper pointed out that to meet anti-doping rules, any player who planned to return to tennis needed to inform the authorities at least three months beforehand.
Le Libre Belgique sounded sure that Henin would end her retirement and already salivated over the prospect of her and Clijsters once again joining forces to play for Belgium in the Fed Cup competition.
Le Soir was more cautious, saying only that “Justine Henin will break her silence” and could “possibly confirm the rumours of her return that have been circulating for the past three months in newspapers and on the internet”.
“Will Justine follow the same road as her eternal rival Kim Clijsters?” the paper asked. “She will make it known on television this evening.”
Born in the city of Liege in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Henin burst on to the international scene in 2001 with three WTA tour victories.
Small in stature but gifted with a fabulous one-handed backhand, a great all-round game and a tough mentality, she went on to win seven Grand Slam titles in the next seven years - four French Opens, two US Opens and one Australian Open—as well as two WTA Tour Championships.
She won a total of 41 WTA Tour titles and held the world No 1 spot for 117 non-consecutive weeks, a position she had when she retired on May 14 2008 citing a succession of injuries and a desire to live a life away from tennis—Sapa-AFP
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