Henin talks Clijsters, Mauresmo, doping rumors

by: TENNIS.com | February 24, 2011

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TENNIS.com

In an interview with Belgian TV channel RTBF, the recently-retired Justine Henin goes into depth on the high and low points of her career:

On the 2004 Australian Open final against Kim Clijsters, which she won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 after Clijsters hit a forehand swing volley on break point at 3-4 in the third set which was called out on an overrule (a TV replay showed that it clipped the back of the line):

"[The ball was] more out than on the line…it touched the line. I admit it now."

On how she turned her career around and began to win Grand Slam titles, beginning with her first at the 2003 French Open:

"I was scared of the powerful girls, I was small. Nobody really believed that I could get past that power. There was a little complex about Kim, who got [to her first Grand Slam final in 2001] a bit before me. I wanted to do as well, couldn’t do it, couldn’t find the way. [Winning 2003 Roland Garros over Clijsters] was magic, the dream of a little girl that comes true. I think Kim knew to what extent Roland Garros was important to me, and I think, despite the fact that it’s tough to lose a Grand Slam final, she knew to what point this title was precious to me, on a human scale. I think she shared my joy, genuinely. The handshake at the end was very strong, and very sincere."

On her relationship with Kim Clijsters:

"The competition was always enormous. When we were younger it was more carefree. I remember some very memorable [junior] moments with her, when we didn’t question ourselves, we weren’t in competition. There wasn’t that competition between us. It was our respective entourages, the Tour, the media. It was a perfect story: one from the north, one from the south. On the personal level we have many things in common—the same [astrological] sign. On the international stage, inside, that pushed us, Kim and I, I think we both lived it at different moments, at others it was source of motivation. We never would have gotten as good one without the other."

On retiring against Amelie Mauresmo in the 2006 Australian Open final and losing to her in the 2006 Wimbledon final:

"[Australia was] one of the worst memories of my career. I was criticized that I didn’t finish the match. The night had been difficult. I just wasn’t capable of playing a Grand Slam final. It just wasn’t possible, but I wanted to try. For MoMo, it was a tough moment. But for me, I felt like I was losing another opportunity to win a Grand Slam. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t play. But it’s not in my temperament. But back then, I felt superhuman, beyond the limits. It would have been tough to say I wouldn’t go on the court, so there are no regrets, I tried. But the feelings it leaves are not very good. It became too tense, I tried to talk to her [Mauresmo], but it became too tense. It's a pity.

"[At Wimbledon] I remember sitting [after winning the first set 6-2]. I never had that fire. It’s bizarre to explain, to say, ‘Hey, I’ll win the only Grand Slam I’ve never won.’ But somehow I wasn’t energized by that. Why, I have no idea. It’s not like me. I never had confidence on grass. I was convinced I wasn’t powerful enough, too small, basically."

On rumors that she retired the first time in order to avoid a suspension for doping:

"I think it goes back further. Remember when I came back from [winning the] U.S. Open in 2003, what was going on the next day? Kim’s father, some journalists, they said she can’t win everything like that. She has quads, she has arms like Serena.  What does that mean, insinuate? Clearly, we’re talking about doping. But they saw what I did with [trainer] Pat Etcheberry. I got to a new level on the physical side. It was a two-year suspension, they said. And when I came back in 18 months, ‘that’s why she’s coming back.’ I knew what I was doing. It made no sense. Why did I not say anything? A lot of people along the way always advised me to be above it, to let it roll, it will pass. I don’t like that. I have a temper. I don’t like people to walk all over me. Maybe my mistake was not to go with my instincts and react immediately. It touches my integrity, you want to have that image—not image, exactly, but you want to prove you’re a clean athlete. I suffered a lot."

On how she’ll feel if Clijsters, who owns four major titles, passes her total of seven:

"It's clear I wouldn't like it if she passed me. It's human to want to stay the benchmark. Now, I'm convinced that Kim has the ability to get seven Grand Slam titles as well and maybe do more. With age, I've learned to put it in perspective. At a certain moment, I was much less [wise] than now. Before I was more preoccupied about that. It’s not a form of jealousy, not that. But you’re a competitor and Kim is too—at that level, we all are. You want to get to the top, it’s not negative against the other, it’s for yourself I don’t know what it would do to me. I won’t follow the matches saying, ‘Oh god, what if it happens?'"—Matthew Cronin
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