Wimbledon dream drives wounded warrior Henin
Justine Henin is determined to put injury concerns behind her in order to make a last push for a Wimbledon title, which would complete her career Grand Slam.
Henin, 28, suffered ligament damage to her right elbow after falling awkwardly on the grass during her fourth round defeat to compatriot Kim Clijsters at the tournament last year and, having opted against extensive surgery to repair the damage, requires frequent physiotherapy to keep the joint in working order. Aware that her body is beginning to fail her, Henin is targeting success at the tournament she was a losing finalist at in 2001 and 2006 to provide a final flourish to her career.
"If I look at my calendar, I want to be in the best condition everywhere, but it [Wimbledon] remains a dream," Henin said. "I have been dreaming all my life and it is a big part of my success because everything I achieved, I did dream it. Wimbledon has been the hardest for me to visualise, but I still have a few images. It is a motivation."
The Belgian has previously won the Australian, French and US Opens during an illustrious career, and is currently preparing for what she hopes will be another successful tournament in Melbourne, but believes winning at the All-England Club would be a success unlike the others - one she will know to savour.
"I remember these moments when I won [major events], I wouldn't say I have regrets, but I can say that I never enjoyed it enough," Henin, who made the final of the 2010 Australian Open but lost to Serena Williams, said. "When you are into it, you don't realise. When you stop you appreciate it more and realise, 'Wow, it was magical.' So, let us do it again and try to enjoy it more than the last time."
Henin's elbow injury was a set-back that, despite opting against surgery, kept her out for the rest of the 2010 season and still requires daily attention. But she believes that is better than the alternative.
"An elbow for a tennis player is something very important and when you break a ligament you have two options. You either wait for it to heal by itself and get strong enough again without doing anything except re-education, or you go to the surgery and it's a big reconstruction of the ligament," she said.
"It would have been a year and for me that option was not possible, because if I had to stop for one year, it would have been the end of my career.
"At the beginning we would wait four months and after that the results were good, but the doctors have been clear also that the pain would not go away. The ligament is solid enough for a normal person, but to be at the top like this and to compete, I have to work two hours every day to make it strong and keep the inflammation down."
The injury has affected the technique of Henin's famous backhand - once described by John McEnroe as the best he had ever seen in the sport - but Henin believes other facets of her game will be important in continuing her grand slam challenges.
"Technically you change a few things because you are scared to have the speed and to have the pain," she said. My backhand is OK. Every shot is important, but my serve is going to be important for my comeback. I can find my speed, but your brain has to get used to it again."