| Justine Henin-Hardenne is ‘feeling better and better’ each week
London: Stricken by illness and injury, Justine Henin-Hardenne ended last year in the depths of despair, wondering if she would ever again experience the giddy heights of tennis.
A fractured knee in November drew a depressing line under a year that had begun with victory at the Australian Open and included an unlikely gold medal at the Athens Olympics, but was mostly spent dealing with an energy-sapping viral infection.
When she returned to the circuit in April in Miami her ranking was down in the 40s, Serena Williams had taken her Australian Open crown and a legion of hungry Russians seemed set to take the game by storm.
Since her defeat to Maria Sharapova in the quarter finals of Miami, however, the petite Belgian former world No. 1 has looked unstoppable and unbeatable.
At Roland Garros earlier this month, she battled past US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova after saving two match-points in the fourth round, obliterated Wimbledon champion Sharapova in the quarter finals and then humiliated home favourite Mary Pierce to win the title for the second time.
Now the steely 23-year-old is setting her sights on completing her set of all four Grand Slam titles by winning Wimbledon, having fallen at the last hurdle four years ago against Venus Williams.
She is leaving nothing to chance this time.
After her French triumph she withdrew from the traditional warm-up event in Eastbourne, on England’s south coast, preferring to rest so that she arrives at the All England Club firing on all cylinders.
“You have to be realistic,” said Henin-Hardenne, explaining why she had opted not to play any competitive matches on grass before the championships begin next Monday.
“What I did two years ago, going to play two weeks after winning the French Open was crazy. In spite of the euphoria, I have to be realistic. Maybe if I prepare for Wimbledon not as well as that time it will work out better for me.”
“I think I can fight a lot on the court and I’m feeling better and better each week,” said Henin-Hardenne, who has bounced back up to world No. 7.