Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has revealed that Justine Henin was her idol growing up and that she tried to “copy” the Belgian player.
Henin was the dominant force on the WTA Tour in the middle part of the 00s, with her elegant backhand, variety and footspeed among the attributes that led her to win seven Grand Slam titles between 2003 and 2007, as well as a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics.
She hit the WTA World No.1 ranking in October 2003 and spent a total of 117 weeks at the top, putting her seventh on the all-time list, and catching the eye of Halep, who was a teenager when Henin was at her peak.
“It’s a pleasure to talk to my idol!” she said on Eurosport’s ‘Tennis Legends’ podcast. “When I was growing up, I was actually copying her, I have to admit.”
Pressed as to what parts of Henin’s game that Halep took inspiration from, she replied: “Well, everything! First of all, we’re the same height and I felt like: ‘I have a chance to do it!’
“And the backhand – even if I’ve not got a one-handed backhand – I loved your backhand, Justine.
“I’ve also copied her movement because she always had strong legs and the way that she played very close to the baseline. I tried to copy that but it was not perfect because I was very far behind it sometimes, but I had it in my mind and I knew that it was the best thing to do when you’re not very tall.”
After Henin agreed with Halep’s own assessment that she could come further up the court, the World No.2 said: “And to the net, no? Everybody is telling me! I get stressed with my hands when I’m around the net!”
The 28-year-old has picked up 20 career titles, including two majors, and has spent 64 weeks at World No.1.
The full interview will be made available when the podcast is released on Thursday, May 14.