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Thrilled Henin glows at Games

Forget the pallid complexion. Forget the hang-dog look and the viral illness that laid her low for more than two months; there is a healthy glow about Justine Henin-Hardenne this week and she means business.
PTI | By Ossian Shine (Reuters), Athens
PUBLISHED ON AUG 14, 2004 05:42 PM IST

Forget the pallid complexion. Forget the hang-dog look and the viral illness that laid her low for more than two months; there is a healthy glow about Justine Henin-Hardenne this week and she means Olympic business.

The world number one women's tennis player has been unable to ply her trade since late May, suffering from a mystery viral infection which left her weak and lethargic.

She has been forced to watch Anastasia Myskina steal her French Open crown and fellow Russian Maria Sharapova storm to a sensational Wimbledon triumph in her absence.

It has not been easy and the steely Belgian is out to make up for it: "It has been so hard for me ... the last couple of months ... Having to sit on the sidelines, not do what I love, what I have a passion for," she said after training in Athens.

"But now I've been told there's no more risk for me, I am ready and so happy to be back.

"I've been able to play for a couple of weeks now, there's no trouble for me. I really am feeling much better," she said.

"I needed to come back. I was so desperate."

The 22-year-old, who has won one match since early April, could not be more thrilled that her comeback to the tour should be at the Olympics.

"Wow ... it is just so special," the three-times grand slam winner said. "The atmosphere ... everything, it's amazing. The village is something you can't describe. I am lucky because the Belgian team ... we are just 51 so we know each other perfectly.

"I'm going to be nervous for sure but it's going to be an amazing experience."

During the last Olympics, Henin-Hardenne was an uncertain 18-year-old, flogging herself around the Tour. When Venus Williams won gold in Sydney, Henin-Hardenne was playing in Luxembourg and Germany.

Four years on, she has come a long way with an Australian, French and U.S. Open crown to her credit.Now she wants the Olympic gold.

"It would be amazing," she said.

"I am going to represent my colours as best I can. This is going to be the most wonderful experience ... one I am going to remember for the rest of my life."

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