Fulfilling a promise to her late mother, Justine Henin had a breakthrough 2003 that climaxed in Zürich, where she finally ascended to No.1 on the WTA Rankings.
WTA Staff

ZURICH, Switzerland - On October 20, 2003, Justine Henin capped a blockbuster season by making her debut atop the WTA Rankings. The 14th woman to become No.1 since the computerized rankings began in 1975, Henin was the second Belgian to reach the top spot - three months after countrywoman Kim Clijsters.

"It's a great day, for sure I always gave everything I have to No.1," she said after winning the Swisscom Challenge in Zürich to clinch No.1. "It's an amazing feeling."

A Top 10 stalwart for the last two years, the diminutive Henin spent a winter with fitness coach Pat Etcheberry, and began her assault on the 2003 season in earnest, reaching the semifinals or better of her first four tournaments - including the Australian Open, where she outlasted former No.1 Lindsay Davenport, 9-7 in the third in the fourth round.

"You know, when you win, people don't see all the work you did before, in practice and in training - when you were crying, when you couldn't go on because you were so tired."

With Etcheberry's assistance and lifelong coach Carlos Rodriguez by her side, that hard work paid off later that year, when she defeated then-World No.1 Serena Williams in three more grueling sets en route to her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open - defeating Clijsters in the final.

Justine Henin

It was a full circle moment for Henin, who traveled with her mother Francoise to watch Monica Seles capture her third title at Roland Garros in 1992. A 10-year-old Henin declared that very day that she too would play on Court Philippe Chatrier. Hoisting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen aloft 11 years later, she dedicated the win to her mother, who passed away from intestinal cancer just two years after that fateful prophecy.

Henin continued her surge up the rankings, riding a 20-match winning streak through two more WTA titles and a second major title at the US Open, again defeating Clijsters in the final.

With a chance to grab the No.1 ranking in Filderstadt, Henin faltered to Clijsters in the final, but made no mistakes that next week in Zürich, ousting former World No.4 Jelena Dokic, who had beaten Clijsters that week in the semis.

"There was enormous pressure," she said after winning the title. "It was hard the first couple of days here; I was pretty down after Filderstadt.

"After match point I thought, 'mission accomplished.' It has given me a lot of motivation and courage to continue. Getting to No.1 is never easy. But I know staying at the top will be hard."

Zürich was Henin's eighth title of the season; she would finish the season ranked No.1 and having reached the semifinals or better at 17 of her 18 tournaments, making 11 finals in all.

Justine Henin

The Belgian brought that momentum through the start of 2004, going 23-1 by winning a third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Though her season would be interrupted by a bout with mononucleosis, she still managed to capture the gold medal the Athens Olympics, winning a classic semifinal against Anastasia Myskina and defeating Amélie Mauresmo in the final.

If you've made it this far, here's some pop culture throwback to October 20, 2003...
No.1 song on Billboard Hot 100 singles: Baby Boy by Beyoncé, featuring Sean Paul
No.1 album on Billboard 200 albums: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by OutKast
No.1 movie at US Box Office: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel
No.1 men's tennis player: Juan Carlos Ferrero
No.1 women's tennis player: Justine Henin

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.