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Henin back on top after dark days

Six months after one of the darkest stages of her life, Justine Henin is enjoying one of the brightest.

sports Updated: Jun 08, 2007 12:47 IST

Six months after one of the darkest stages of her life, Justine Henin is enjoying one of the brightest.

The Belgian opted out of playing in the Australian Open in January as she struggled to deal with the breakup of her marriage.

It was just the latest friends and family twist to hit the Belgian following the death of her mother when she was still a youngster and her subsequent estrangement from her father and close family.

But adversity once again brought out the best in a player who was once told that she was too small and lightweight to mix it with the powerhouses of the modern women's game.

Henin has emerged from her time away from the sport to underline her position as world No1 and a win over Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in Saturday's French Open final could see her stay there for some time to come.

"I didn't follow the games in Australia, because there were other important things in my life going on at that moment and tennis wasn't the priority," she said after her impressive straight-sets demolition of Jelena Jankovic in Thursday's semi-finals.

"It took a bit of time for tennis to come back on to the top list of my priorities ... and then my love for the game came back and I had many positive things happen in my life afterwards."

Still only 25, Henin has suddenly seen her position strengthened atop the world rankings which have been changing regularly since Serena Williams' period of domination ended in 2003.

The Williams sisters are no longer the powers they used to be, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati have both all but retired and Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova are struggling with injuries.

She still wants to win Wimbledon to complete her career Grand Slam. But Henin is not just a clay-courter and her run into the US Open final in New York last September proved that she is a potential champion on all surfaces.

And unlike compatriot Kim Clijsters, who has just announced her retirement from the sport at the age of just 23, Henin says that, injuries permitting, she will continue playing for a few more years.

A win on Saturday would be her sixth Grand Slam title taking her past Martina Hingis and Venus Williams and she insists that her motivation remains as high as ever.

"I love being out there," she said. "I do it for myself, I do it for the people I love, for my fans. It's just an amazing human adventure."

First Published: Jun 08, 2007 12:45 IST

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