40 LOVE Icons: Justine Henin
Published December 10, 2013 12:02
LONDON, England - Since retiring from pro tennis for good in 2011, Justine Henin has kept busy - her academy, commentary, becoming a mother - but the seven-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 is still very much in touch with the WTA, as she said at this year's 40 LOVE Party.
But first, a look back - Henin talked about her best memories from her illustrious career.
"The best memory of my career was when I won my first Grand Slam, my first French Open," Henin said. "It was a dream come true for me. I was still a little girl at the time, and not many players believed I could be a great player one day, but I did it. So that day was obviously a very emotional day for me.
"I would also say my match against Jennifer Capriati at the US Open in 2003, the semifinals, was an unbelievable memory. It was usually difficult for me to play in the States because everything is so much different, but there were so many fans and it was such a crazy match - it was just a great experience."
Henin says her years of experience as a player have helped her in her recent commentary gigs.
"The experience I got on the court give me an advantage when I'm doing commentary because I experienced it all first-hand. But I can already see the game has changed even more since I stopped - it has become even more physical the last few years, with some great athletes coming up. From the time Venus and Serena came on the tour they really pushed the players to go to another level.
"I also hope I brought something different to the game too. I wasn't as tall or strong as some of the other players but I used a lot of variety, came to the net - it was the same with Mauresmo. With a mix of all different styles I think tennis is very rich right now. Different personalities and different games."
Henin says her favorite player to watch now is someone who has power, variety and 17 majors.
"I still like to watch Serena," Henin said. "She's not only hitting the ball hard, she can do a lot of things with her game - she can take the pace off, come to the net, slice, she has good defense, and her motivation is very high. I respect her for everything she has done and everything I'm sure she will do.
"I also like watching Kirsten Flipkens. She has so much talent and so much potential. She worked so hard to get to the Top 20 and I'm looking forward to seeing more. I watch a little bit of everyone else too - Sara Errani has done a fantastic job following up her French Open final by confirming she belongs at the top. There are others too. It's great to see the game now and I hope it stays healthy."
And what about the 40 LOVE Party this year, which was held on the Middle Sunday of Wimbledon?
"I think it's the first time all the former No.1s are together again," she said. "I feel honored I could be a small part of the wonderful history of this game. We can be proud. The game has improved so much. The situation of women's tennis has improved a lot. What Billie Jean did for us, no one can forget it.
"I don't travel too much anymore so it's great to see everyone here and see how all of them are doing."