Paris: Justine Henin-Hardenne may have become the first ever Belgian Grand Slam champion here on Saturday, but as she fell into the arms of husband Pierre-Yves the new queen of Roland Garros wasn’t thinking about history.
Holding the Suzanne Lenglen Trophy aloft, the 21-year- old, who has had her fair share of heartache since the death of her mother from cancer as a child and her estrangement from her father, admitted that her new-found happiness was the key to her recent successes.
Henin-Hardenne defeated compatriot Kim Clijsters 6-0, 6-4 in 67 minutes, to avenge the loss in their last meeting here in the 2001 semi-final when she allowed Clijsters to recover from a 2-6, 2-4 deficit.
“I thought about what happened in 2001,” admitted Henin-Hardenne after she rushed to an early lead in Saturday’s match. “But it wasn’t the same kind of situation. I wasn’t afraid to lose.”
It was a Henin-Hardenne transformed on the Philippe Chatrier Centre Court as she notched up her fourth title this year, bringing her career collection to ten.
Even her vanquished opponent Clijsters, often seen as the mentally stronger of the prodigious Belgian duo, could notice a difference in her Fed Cup teammate.
“She looks a lot happier on and off the court. And I think that’s probably what was making a little bit of a difference before,” said Clijsters.
“That was more of a mental thing that time. That I could turn around the match,” said Clijsters of her 2001 win over Henin.
Henin-Hardenne, the youngest ever Belgian national champion aged 15 in 1997, the same year she won the Roland Garros junior trophy as a wildcard, admitted that the fact that she no longer felt compelled to win gave her renewed confidence.
That death of her grandfather the night before her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon two years ago, coming just months after the cot death of a three-month-old nephew, had put increased pressure on the young Belgian.
“Tennis is not everything because I’ve lived very difficult things in my life,” said Henin-Hardenne, who married Pierre-Yves last November. “When I woke up this morning my husband and me talked and we said ‘it’s not everything if you win or lose, it doesn’t matter. We’re very proud of you’ he said to me. And that’s very important to me that I know that people around me love me and are supporting me.
“Tennis is my passion first, but tennis is my job too. I have many things around tennis that are very, very important. I have family, I have friends that I love and I think that everybody’s healthy. That’s the important thing.”
“I just took decisions a long time ago now. I have the people I want around me,” she explained. (AFP)