Tennis star Henin set for Brisbane comeback
SYDNEY: Belgium''s seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin confirmed she would make her comeback from a 15-month retirement at Australia''s Brisbane International in January.
The former world number one''s return to tournament tennis will pit her against compatriot and fellow ex-retiree Kim Clijsters, who won September''s US Open just five weeks after ending a two-year hiatus.
"After a 15-month absence I am pleased to begin my second tennis career at the Brisbane International," the 27-year-old Henin said in a statement.
"It will be great to get back to playing competitive tennis again and with the strong field, the same court surface and a similar climate to Melbourne, it will be the perfect preparation leading into the Australian Open."
Tournament director Steve Ayles said Henin will also be up against Serbia''s former French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic, and home favourite Jelena Dokic at the January 3-10 event.
"It will be tremendous to see Justine match up against her former rival and countrywoman Kim Clijsters," said Ayles.
"With the former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and Australian Open quarter-finalist Jelena Dokic confirmed, we are looking at an extremely strong women''s field."
Despite winning a total of 41 WTA Tour titles and holding the world No.1 spot for 117 non-consecutive weeks, Henin will be given one of four wildcard entries into the tournament, as she has no current WTA ranking, Ayles said.
Henin, who retired on May 14, 2008, citing a succession of injuries and a desire to live a life away from tennis, will play two exhibition events in Charleroi and Dubai later this year before her tournament return, he added.
The Olympic gold medallist and holder of three of the four major titles announced her comeback shortly after Clijsters won the US Open, saying her passion for the game had been rekindled.
Small in stature but gifted with a fabulous one-handed backhand, a great all-round game and a tough mentality, Henin won seven Grand Slam titles in the seven years from 2001 -- four French Opens, two US Opens and one Australian Open -- as well as two WTA Tour Championships.
Henin said her comeback goal was to win Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam event to elude her, and has vowed to return to the top of women''s tennis.
"Tennis is what I do best. I''m 27 and still physically capable," she said in September.
"I like a real challenge. Ambition is part of me, I need to live something exceptional, to feel the adrenalin."
Clijsters welcomed the return of her compatriot, saying it was "fantastic" for women''s tennis and for Belgium, adding that Henin was a hard worker who had achieved magnificent results in her earlier career.