Henin says she can still beat the best

MELBOURNE - Justine Henin insisted she was still capable of beating the top players after she downed fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 18 Jan 2010, 6:34 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:56 AM

Playing only her second tournament since making a comeback from an 18-month retirement, the seven-time Grand Slam champion was always in control against her younger rival, wrapping up the match in 73 minutes.

She now faces an enormous challenge in the second round when she meets fifth seeded Russian Elena Dementieva, who demolished countrywoman Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-1.

But the 27-year-old Henin said she was looking forward to the challenge and said her thrilling three-set loss to Kim Clijsters in the final of the Brisbane International last week had given her confidence.

“Well, it was good to play Kim in Brisbane because that gave me a little bit of an idea where I was,” Henin said.

“In the second round I’ll have to play very good tennis — she’s (Dementieva) number five in the world so it’s going to be a great challenge for me to play that kind of match very early in the tournament.

“Of course, it’s a tough draw, but in a Grand Slam, every match is difficult,” she added.

“I love to play the top players — I know I’ll have to be at very high level.”

Henin, who won the Australian Open in 2004, retired in May 2008, saying she no longer had the motivation.

But soon after Clijsters won the US Open on her own comeback last September, Henin announced that she too would return.

She played her first tournament in Brisbane, losing to Clijsters but showing she had lost few of her skills or her renowned tenacity.

Henin said she felt refreshed after her break and said she wanted to become a better player than when she retired.

“I want to get better because I think it makes sense to do it because I want to do it better,” she said.

“And not about the others and my opponents, but just me, the fact that I want to improve my game and get better than in the past because I love challenges.

“The good thing is that I don’t feel old yet, so that’s already a good point, even if when I came here I realised it was six years ago that I won the Australian Open.

“Physically and mentally, I don’t feel like I’m part of the old generation, so that’s good.”

An older and wiser Henin said she worried about the pressure that younger players face on the tour.

“It’s a life that asks a lot, especially the way we do it, with a lot of discipline, winning a lot of matches,” she said.

“Physically and mentally it’s really hard. That’s why I think when I see very young players coming on the tour, I’m concerned for them because it’s tough.

“I think it’s very good to go step by step, because it’s a difficult life.”

Henin added that she felt she needed to step away from the sport when she did.

“At 25 I was feeling at the end of my first career quite, whew, tired and I needed some air,” she said.

“And that takes everything from you, this kind of life, and you’re not able at that age to take the distance you need to understand that, yeah, there is something else than tennis.”

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