Perth: Former world No 1 Justine Henin
admits she is probably six months away from recapturing her
best form, as she prepares for her second Antipodean comeback
in as many years.
The seven-times Grand Slam winner took almost two years
off from tennis to grapple with her personal life before
coming back at this year`s Australian Open in January,
amazingly reaching the final, where she was beaten by Serena
Williams in three sets.
Just under 12 months on and this time Henin is preparing
to return from a serious elbow injury that threatened to end
her career for good.
The 28-year-old Belgian has not played competitively
since injuring her right elbow in her fourth round loss to
countrywoman Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon in June.
Now ranked 12th in the world, Henin will take her first
steps in her latest return at the mixed teams Hopman Cup,
starting in Perth on Saturday, ahead of the Australian Open in
Speaking in Perth today, Henin said she was a long way
short of the fitness she needed to consistently win
"I hope I can build my condition this year by playing
tournaments, and hope to be really ready around June-July,
which would be great for me," she said.
"My elbow is getting better. It is six months since the
injury and I can`t say I am 100 per cent.”
"I am working very hard on it and I spend two hours every
day on my rehabilitation.”
"Now step by step I can improve, but it will probably
take a few more weeks and maybe months before I can be 100 per
"I am not feeling free of all the pain, but I am going in
the right direction."
Although she has not won a Grand Slam title since 2007
and does not expect to ever again reach the heights of that
year, when she won both the French and US Opens, Henin
believes she is still capable of adding to her tally, and
would not totally rule herself out of contention in Melbourne.
"No one is dominating women`s tennis, there are a lot of
ups and downs, Serena is not going to be there so it is going
to be wide open, but I don`t consider myself one of the
biggest favourites," she said of her Australian Open hopes.
"The expectation is to give my best, stay healthy and win
as many matches as I can.”
"First round is going to be important for me and then
we`ll see, step by step. Kim (Clijsters) proved it and I
proved it, that a comeback can be a very nice thing."
Henin said she believed the round robin format of the
Hopman Cup, with a guarantee of six matches, including the
mixed doubles, was a perfect way to ease back into tennis
ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season.