Justine Henin has retired from tennis.
The former No. 1, who has seven Majors titles to her name, has announced on her website that her elbow was "damaged" during the recent Australian Open.
She went on: "In these recent months I have rarely been spared of the pain....The doctors told me my elbow is too fragile and therefore I cannot continue my profession at this high level."
It is a heavy blow for the elegant Belgian, who only returned to the tour a year ago after quitting in 2008 as the top-ranking woman.
Henin immediately reached the Australian Open final, but her comeback was cut short when she fractured a ligament in her elbow at Wimbledon. This was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, for it was the challenge of Wimbledon that brought her back.
It was the first weekend of June 2009, little more than a year after her first dramatic retirement from tennis. Henin did not watch the women’s event at Roland Garros, for she had little interest in who would win the title she had refused to defend in 2008.
She did, though, watch the men’s tournament: “I feel closer to players like Roger Federer. And, of course, Roger was trying to win the only Grand Slam he had never won. Part of me wanted him to win but, in another way, I knew it would give me trouble mentally if he did.”
Her “trouble” was Wimbledon—because, like her male doppelganger, Henin had several times come within a whisker of winning the one Major she was missing. She was the beaten finalist in London in 2001 and 2006.
If Federer could scale his final mountain at the French Open, maybe she too could scale hers at Wimbledon. After all, Federer was in his 28th year, and in 2010 she would be too.
“You know that little voice we all have in our heads...it was telling me Roger winning the French was very special...it made me think how much I’d missed by not winning Wimbledon.”
That little voice bothered her so much that it made her pick up her racket. It then made her, three months later, announce her comeback to the tour.
She had said, ahead of this year’s Australian, that her elbow was still not 100 percent, and she was to be seen prodding it during her loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova in third round.
"I suffered a lot the last week and every day gave me more and more pain, but I believed that my will would take the upper hand. I'm in shock, of course. After having considered the advice of doctors, it is now clear and accepted that my career finally ends."
Her glorious footwork, eagle-eyed attack, fluid single-handed backhand and infectious intensity will be her legacy for women’s tennis.
"I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending."
Her fans can only agree and wish her well. As she so rightly concluded: "What a wonderful trip."
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