Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career. (Photos: Getty Images)
Winning the girls French Open title in 1997 only a few days after turning 16 years old, Justine Henin made her debut in the women’s event two years later, giving the second seed Lindsay Davenport all she could handle before losing 7-5 in the third.
Two separate results with one thing in common: marking the Belgian as a future all-time great, particularly on the clay. And that label is one she definitely lived up to as she would go on to win four French Open titles in her Hall-of-Fame career.
After that promising showing in 1999, Henin missed the tournament the following year. When she returned in 2001 as the 14th seed, she didn’t drop a set through her first five matches to reach the semifinals. Continuing her strong play in the final four against her countrywoman, Kim Clijsters, Henin won the first set, but fell in three in the historic matchup. Showing that she was an all-surface talent, Henin rebounded from that defeat to reach her first Grand Slam final a few weeks later at Wimbledon, where she lost to Venus Williams.
With more experience under her belt and a top-five seeding, Henin was one of the favorites for the 2002 title, but in one of the upsets of the tournament, she lost her opening match to the qualifier, Anika Kapros, 6-0 in the third set.
Returning to Paris a year later, this time as a married woman, Henin-Hardenne was on a mission, and only dropped one set through her first five matches. In the semifinals, she faced the defending champion, Serena Williams, who was attempting to win her fifth Grand Slam title in a row. In a match that would be overshadowed by controversy, Henin beat the American in three sets to reach her second career major final.