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Heartache no barrier to Henin success

india Updated: Dec 20, 2007 19:01 IST
Highlight Story

Belgian star Justine Henin proved once again that heartache is no barrier to success as she hammered home her domination of women's tennis in 2007.

The year could not have gotten off to a worse start for the 25-year-old who missed the Australian Open following her divorce from husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne.

But since February it was full steam ahead for Henin whose only major slip-up was her semi-final defeat to France's Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam missing from her collection.

Between Wimbledon and the season-ending WTA Championships, Henin was undefeated, a feat not achieved since her idol Steffi Graf did the same 18 years ago.

She won 10 of the 14 tournaments she competed in, including a fourth French Open and second US Open crown for what was her most successful season ever with a record-breaking five million dollars in winnings.

At the beginning of 2008 she will pass the mark of 100 weeks as world number one and looks set to hold that spot for some time.

Henin believes she is stronger than ever mentally as she has found a balance in her life after rekindling her relationship with her estranged father and siblings during the year.

"Basically I feel good mentally. I'm finally happy and very much at peace with myself," she said.

"This has definitely been the best season of my career so far.

"It has been a very challenging year overall, but I have stayed positive and proved that nothing is impossible if you work hard. I still think my best tennis is yet to come."

Her coach Carlos Rodriguez also believes this is only just the beginning.

"Without a doubt Justine is continuing to improve," he said.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, who finished the year as number two, could not match Henin. The Russian won one title and had five runners-up finishes including the US Open, before helping her country secure their third Fed Cup crown in Moscow.

The Williams sisters however proved they can never be ruled out as they claimed the two Grand Slam titles not won by Henin.

Serena won her eighth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open after arriving in Melbourne ranked 81 following an injury-blighted 2006.

But despite the second half of her season being hit by injuries the former world number one finished the year at number seven.

Older sister Venus became the lowest-ranked Wimbledon champion in history, as she claimed her fourth title at the All England club from a 31-ranking.

The circuit bid farewell to former world number ones with Martina Hingis, the last player to win ten titles in one season in 1997, and Kim Clijsters both hanging up their rackets.

But while Hingis left protesting her innocence after a positive test for cocaine during Wimbledon, Belgian Clijsters retired ahead of her July wedding and impending motherhood.

Hingis' exit was a sad end for one of the teenaged stars of the game in the 1990s who first retired in 2003 due to persistent ankle injury problems before returning to the circuit in 2006.

"I have tested positive but I have never taken drugs and I feel 100 percent innocent," insisted the 27-year-old Swiss player.

"I'm frustrated and angry, and accusations such as these don't provide me with the motivation to continue. Because of my age and my health problems I have also decided to retire from professional tennis."

Another former world number one Lindsay Davenport put her retirement on hold as she returned just three months after giving birth to her first son, Jagger, and capured singles titles at Bali and Quebec City.

Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic had their breakthrough seasons finishing ranked third and fourth respectively, as rising stars Tatiana Golovin, Agnes Szavay and Agnieszka Radwanska all lifted their first titles.

But for some of the stars of 2006 it proved a difficult year.

Former world number ones Amelie Mauresmo of France and Russia's Maria Sharapova slipped down the rankings as they battled injuries while Russia's Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova finished the year outside the top ten for the first time since 2004.

And the year ended on a sour note for Russia's Anna Chakvetadze when she was robbed of goods worth 200,000 dollars after being tied up by thieves who broke into her holiday home outside of Moscow.

Chakvetadze has enjoyed a breakthrough year on the WTA circuit this year notably reaching the semi-finals at the US Open in New York and is currently ranked sixth in the world after pocketing 1.5 million dollars in prize money.