Happy Henin just glad to be back

Updated: 15 January 2010 08:02 IST

She smiles a lot more and insists she is calmer, but Justine Henin has shown everyone she still has the game to stun the tennis world and win the 2010 Australia

Happy Henin just glad to be back

Melbourne:

She smiles a lot more and insists she is calmer, but Justine Henin has shown everyone she still has the game to stun the tennis world and win the 2010 Australian Open.

Henin returned to the sport after a 20-month retirement at last week's Brisbane International, where she went down to fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in a magnificent three-set final.

While the 27-year-old still has the steely determination and sheer will to win that has overwhelmed her opponents in the past, and her trademark backhand remains as potent as ever, there is something different about Henin this time.

Gone is the intense, sometimes dour woman who agonised over defeat and in her place is a smiling, talkative one who sees positives in almost every situation.

During the Brisbane tournament she talked just as much about how she had matured as a person and how relaxed she is these days as she did about her tennis.

After the brilliant final against Clijsters when she came back from a seemingly hopeless position to one where she dominated the third set, only to lose to her arch-rival, Henin was not the slightest bit downcast.

"I don't have any regrets from (leading) 3-0 to the end of the third set because everything could have happened at that time, it was so close, so tight," she said.

"I'm really happy, it gives me the confidence I need before the Open."

Her long-time coach Carlos Rodriguez has noticed the change since Henin's return to tennis, saying his charge was now far more relaxed and willing to listen to another point of view.

"The most important thing for me is to see another player, another attitude," he said.

"She's enjoying it a little bit more -- even (in a tough quarter-final against Melinda Czink), when it was not so good, she's still enjoying herself on the court."

Clijsters agreed with Rodriguez and said the final against Henin was the most enjoyable match the two had played.

"There were rallies out there where we were both laughing and both having fun -- that's what it should be like," Clijsters said.

Henin said she had realistic goals heading into the year's first Grand Slam.

"I need a few more months to really be at my top," she said.

"I have to remember it's my first tournament back in 18 months."

"If someone told me before coming here to Australia that I would be in the final of my first tournament, I would sign (for it)."

Henin, who must play three tournaments before she can get an official WTA ranking, has been granted a wildcard to the 2010 Australian Open.

Her form in Brisbane suggests many a seeded player will be waiting nervously for the draw to be made.

Topics : Tennis
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