Fatigue from virus still dogging former No. 1

Updated: October 11, 2004, 1:14 PM ET
Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Olympic champion Justine Henin-Hardenne ended her season Monday, saying she was exhausted after two years of a relentless effort to become the WTA Tour's top-ranked player.

Justine Henin-Hardenne
Henin-Hardenne's energy woes contributed to her second-round loss at the French Open in May.

She said an energy-sapping virus that weakened her since April was a symptom of a more general malaise caused by her pursuit of titles and the No. 1 ranking.

"The last two years, I made a lot of effort to get where I am now, to become the No. 1, to win Grand Slams and the Olympics," she said on her Web site. "It's very logical and understandable that I'm this tired. It's high time I get some rest now."

Despite months of fatigue, in August she won the singles gold medal at the Olympics.

"The last strength I had was in Athens," she said. "Afterward it was tough to recover."

The 22-year-old Belgian withdrew from last week's tournament in Filderstadt, Germany. She was to defend her title in next week's event in Zurich, Switzerland, before November's season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Los Angeles.

"The will is still there," she said, adding she hopes a good start next season will return her to the top ranking.

Another former No. 1 player, Belgian countrywoman Kim Clijsters, also has ended her season. Clijsters injured her left wrist again two weeks ago and will have to rest for at least six weeks.

Henin-Hardenne reached No. 1 in October 2003 but has fallen to third behind Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport. She could fall from the top five by the end of the season.

"A period of rest will allow me to recharge my batteries and become even stronger. When I'll be fully recovered, the enthusiasm to win will be even bigger," she said.

Despite long layoffs, she has won five tournaments this season, including the Australian Open and the Olympic title.

She was first forced to rest after being diagnosed with the blood disorder in April. She came back in June to try to defend her French Open title but lost in the second round and left the circuit again.

After her Olympic victory, she lost in the fourth round at the U.S. Open and has not played since. She said she had fallen ill again before the Grand Slam tournament in New York and has been dogged by fatigue since.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press