Henin finds joy and success after the heartbreak
Henin's seventh title in 11 events this year, including her third French Open crown in a row, capped a season that began with the breakup of her marriage to Pierre-Yves Hardenne, whom she married in November of 2002.india Updated: Sep 10, 2007 12:50 IST
Stronger in spirit and more willing to open her true self to the world, Justine Henin is having more fun in life, enjoying her triumphs with more zest and putting the joy in her heart into her tennis.
The Belgian world number one completed a year of astonishing transition Saturday by capturing her seventh Grand Slam title, defeating Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-3 in the final of the US Open, the year's last Slam event.
"When I was a little girl I was dreaming of winning just one Grand Slam in my career and I've won seven. It's still hard to believe I did that," Henin said. "All these numbers are talking to me. They give me a lot of confidence.
"It's more than a dream."
Henin's seventh title in 11 events this year, including her third French Open crown in a row, capped a season that began with the breakup of her marriage to Pierre-Yves Hardenne, whom she married in November of 2002.
In March, Henin reunited with father Jose, elder brothers David and Thomas and younger sister Sarah. She had been estranged from her family since age 17.
"I didn't really know what to expect from this season when it started pretty badly for me. I just kept fighting and came back probably stronger so it's just great," Henin said.
Henin, 25, has also endured sister Florence's death in a car accident and her mother Francoise's death from cancer when Henin was 12.
"A lot of things have happened in my life," Henin said. "I have no regrets about anything. I just want to move forward. I want to enjoy every moment of my career because I know it's not going to be that long anymore.
"I don't say one or two years but it's not going to be for 10 years so I have to enjoy every moment."
While showing more emotion on the court than in past years, Henin is also displaying a consistency that she had lacked, especially in high-pressure points with key matches or titles at stake.
While she resists the comparison, the transformation into something of a female version of men's world number one counterpart Roger Federer is there.
"Roger is Roger. He is unique. But I've been very consistent myself. That's for sure," she said. "I hope we can keep growing together at the same time."
Henin beat two long-time nemesis rivals, Venus and Serena Williams, on her way to the title. Her fist-pumping passion showed unlike ever before.
"I enjoy my game much more than I did in the past. I'm just feeling myself," Henin said. "I grew up a lot and I think we can see it on the court. Against Venus I did show a lot of emotions and you probably never saw that in the past.
"But that's the way I am. I'm a very intense person and we could see it during the tournament."
"I'm getting closer to a lot of people. I could feel a big difference this time in the States. People were coming much more easily to me. I think I look more open. I look myself.
"I think people really start to know me a little bit better. It has been a big difference in my life the last few months."
And while the US Open will never be Henin's favorite Slam, she has grown to appreciate the chaos of a New York tennis atmosphere.
"New York takes me a lot of energy. It's probably the hardest Grand Slam to win because it's a crazy city. It's a big show over here. I wasn't used to it really. It's not in my personality," Henin said.
"But I started to really enjoy every moment of it this year. It was a great atmosphere. It's going to be a very good souvenir for me."
Not even a slip of the lip reference to "Henin-Hardenne" at the trophy ceremony to put her off her high.
"I don't care about that," Henin said. "It has been a big part of my life. I have to accept it. I heard it but that was OK. I just wanted to enjoy every moment. It was a little mistake but it doesn't change anything to my joy."
First Published: Sep 10, 2007 12:49 IST