Stuttgart: Justine Henin has completed her comeback to tennis with a first title and must now be rated highly, if not the top favourite, for the French Open.
Samantha Stosur, who lost the Stuttgart indoor clay final Sunday against Henin, named her `the benchmark for clay court`.
Semi-final victim Shahar Peer praised Henin as `one of the complete players,` and Jelena Jankovic, who had to bow to the Belgian in the quarters, could only concede that she `may be even better` than before her retirement in May 2008 as the world number one.
Henin, 27, played down the expectations, insisting that "it is too early to talk about Roland Garros."
"After Madrid (where she will play next in the final big event ahead of the French Open starting May 23) we will see who is in shape. But a Grand Slam is so different."
However, she could not hide that `it will be very emotional to go back there.`
Henin ruled the French Open with four titles - 2003 and 2005-2007 - (from a total seven Grand Slam crowns) and takes a 21-match winning streak into the 2010 edition.
The vast success in Paris is one of the reasons why Henin has her `best memories on this surface,` and there is also a link to the tournament in her decision to return after quitting in May 2008 because she had enough of the sport.
"When I saw Roger Federer win the French Open (in 2009 to complete his collection of all Grand Slam titles) it brought back the fire," she said.
A title was the missing part of the puzzle since Henin returned to action from the 18-month hiatus in January as `the godmother in a girls` school,` as Germany`s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung put it.
She lost in the final of her first two events, in Brisbane and the Australian Open, but it finally all came together in Stuttgart where she beat Stosur 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
"It is a great feeling. I have been waiting for this. It was important for me to win and very emotional. The ceremony, the thank yous, it was all very strong, very emotional," said Henin.
"It was a feeling I didn`t have in a very long time."
These feelings were far more important for her than the Porsche or the 107,000 dollars in prize mney. The 42nd career title also brings back Henin into the top 20 rankings that improves her seeding in Paris.
The French Open opposition must be even more chilled that she won the Stuttgart title with a fractured little left finger and despite illness and tiredness in the end.
"I felt no energy and was tired on court (after the second set), but then I played my best tennis of the week," said Henin.