Wimbledon 2010, Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters elusive victory chances and comeback
There was a time earlier on in the decade when there was an upsurge of Belgian women on the tennis circuit. Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters entered the WTA with a bang. It was a pleasure watching both these talented women battling it out in the finals of the grand slams, making their country proud. And just like that their careers came to an abrupt end, with each announcing premature retirement from the game. Women’s tennis lost its brightest shining stars, but not for too long. Clijsters came out of retirement last year and won the US Open, and Justine Henin followed suit earlier this year. Justine won the Unicef Open in the Netherlands, her first title on grass this year. Will Wimbledon prove to be a lucky ground for the comeback queens?
Justine Henin’s retirement came as a shock to the tennis world, as she was at the pinnacle of her career in May 2008. She was ranked world number one, when she revealed her decision to the entire world. But after an eighteen month hiatus, for which she cited personal reasons such as her divorce and brother’s grave car accident, Henin could not stay away from the courts she loved so much. Citing Roger Federer’s French Open victory as her inspiration, she announced her return to competitive tennis.
Another victory that inspired her was her compatriot Kim Clijster’s fairytale comeback trail which included her US Open win. It was successive injuries that forced Clijsters to retire from professional tennis on 6 May 2007. But two years later she was invited to play exhibition matches on the centre court of Wimbledon, along with Andre Agassi, Tim Henman and Steffi Graf, to inaugurate the newly installed roof. It was her win over former champion Steffi Graf and just the sheer thrill of being on the court that prompted her to announce her comeback in March 2009. With neither player ever winning Wimbledon, Henin reaching the finals and Clijsters the semi finals, it would be interesting to see how they perform on grass after returning to tennis.
In 2003, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters faced each other in the finals of three grand slams, but Wimbledon was missing from that tally. While Henin reached the finals in 2001 and 2006, Clijsters has only made it to the semi-finals. It seems that glory on grass has been evading the Belgians. In the run up to Wimbledon, Clijsters started her campaign in Eastbourne, where she last won in 2005, her start was promising but she eventually lost in the quarter finals to Victoria Azarenka. On the other hand, Justine Henin had a more successful start to the grass season. She was seeded number one at the Unicef Open and lived up to the expectations by beating Andrea Petkovic in the final to win her second title of the year.
With a Wimbledon title missing from her kitty, Henin has teamed up with her former coach Carlos Rodrieguz to alter her game plan and strategy to suit the grass surface. In order to prevent injuries, she is concentrating on playing shorter more aggressive points that would be an advantage on grass. There seems to be an expectation that Henin will perform at the same level she did prior to her retirement, but that is far from reality. This year it is her goal to win Wimbledon, but how far she goes only time will tell.
For Clijsters, the key is to stay in shape. It was her injuries that forced her out earlier and she would not want history to repeat itself, hence the concentration on maintaining and building physical health. She won both her exhibition matches at the centre court last year and would be looking to do the same in competitive tennis this year. But the road ahead for both these Belgian players would heavily depend on their ability to deal with the draw that is handed to them.