`Grown-up` Belgians relieved rivalry restricted to court

London: Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters have gone from exchanging angry glances over the net to friendly text message banter, the Wimbledon last-16 opponents said on Friday.

The two Belgians, who will face each other on Monday, have met 24 times, including in three grand slam finals, but have not always enjoyed the best of relationships.

"I think we`ve definitely grown up," eighth seed Clijsters told reporters after blitzing 27th seed Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-3 in her third-round match.

"I think we`ve had great times together playing Fed Cup and just messaging each other on phones, teasing each other, fun, you know, relax. I think that`s how I would have liked it to have always been."

Clijsters waved goodbye to tennis in May 2007 and 12 months later seven-times grand slam winner Henin sent shockwaves through the sport when she quit as world number one, vowing never to return.

But the lure of the court and competition proved too strong for both players and within the space of a few months in 2009 both returned with a bang.

Clijsters completed her fairytale comeback when she became the first mother to win a grand slam in 30 years at the U.S. Open while Henin almost matched her with a major when finishing runner up at the Australian Open in January.

"Our relationship is very good," Henin said after crushing 12th seed Nadia Petrova 6-1, 6-4.

"We feel we grew up a lot, both of us. I mean, Kim, having a baby, and the distance I took also for two years.”

"We probably discover each other not differently than in the past, but we are more adult now, and we have a lot of respect. So, of course on the court, we both want to win, but the relationship is very good."

Henin, who looked nimble and compact in comparison to the cumbersome Petrova, took just 68 minutes to grind her Russian opponent into the ground with an array of punishing backhands and delicate drop shots.

"I just go step by step," she added. "It was a very good one today. I`m very happy the way I played. The next match, of course, is going to be very difficult. I think my game is good now."

Bureau Report

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by clicking this link