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02 October 2023

Former champ back with a bang



An emotional Justine Henin (pictured) said she was almost overwhelmed by the occasion when she made a triumphant return to the women's tennis tour at the Brisbane International yesterday.

Henin, playing her first match since May 2008, upset second seeded Russian Nadia Petrova 7-5, 7-5 in the first round of the season-opening tournament.

The former world No1 proved she can still be a force in the women's game as she showed all her steely determination to defeat Petrova.

While her trademark backhand may have been a little rusty in patches, Henin was able to convert break points at key moments in both sets to clinch victory.

But despite looking in complete control throughout, Henin conceded she had been affected by her emotions before the game.

"I've been waiting for this moment for so long, and finally I walked on the court, and the crowd [cheered] – I was really touched by the crowd," she said. "At the beginning everything seemed very big – the stadium, all the people – I'm not used to it any more.

"But now I'm so happy. I'm happy about what I did on the court; I'm happy about my feelings, and what I've done, and the winning of course." Henin retired from tennis while at the summit of the women's rankings, saying she had lost the desire to compete at the top level. However, soon after compatriot Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open after her own comeback, Henin announced she too was coming out of retirement.

"It's a different Henin," Petrova said. "To me it looks like she's playing better tennis than before she retired."

The Russian said that instead of playing a game of cautious attrition, the newly aggressive Henin was trying to win points earlier in the rallies, which made her even harder to play against.

Henin now plays Sesil Karatancheva of Kazakhstan in the second round ahead of a probable quarter-final against seventh seeded Hungarian Melinda Czink.


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