Henin-Hardenne cites personal reasons for withdrawal

Updated: January 8, 2007, 11:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

SYDNEY, Australia -- Justine Henin-Hardenne will skip the Australian Open and a preliminary tournament because of undisclosed personal reasons.

Justine Henin-Hardenne
Ann Heisenfelt/AP PhotoJustine Henin-Hardenne won the Australian Open in 2004 and was runner-up to Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.

Australian Open spokesman John Lindsay confirmed Thursday that Henin-Hardenne -- the No. 1 player in the world -- withdrew from the tournament that begins Jan. 15 in Melbourne. She was the runner-up last year.

Lindsay said Australian Open officials checked with the WTA Tour after the Belgian player withdrew earlier Thursday from next week's Sydney International. They were told that Henin-Hardenne wouldn't play in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, either.

A statement appeared on Henin-Hardenne's Web site shortly after the announcement that cited "personal family reasons" for her withdrawal.

"I need to address to you very important news, unfortunately it's not good news," the statement said.

"I have to withdraw from the Australian tournaments for personal family reasons.

"I want to thank you in advance for respecting my choices, and my private life."

Sydney International tournament director Craig Watson said senior WTA Tour officials informed them of Henin-Hardenne's decision to pull out.

"Obviously we are very disappointed," Watson said. "Justine is our defending champion.

"I believe she is quite upset and we certainly wish her the best and hope she is able to return to the courts very soon."

Henin-Hardenne was expected to issue a statement Friday, but it is unclear whether she will provide any further information to her Web site comments.

Amelie Mauresmo, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, will take over as the top seed for the Sydney tournament which begins Monday.

Henin-Hardenne, 24, won the French Open last season and reached the final at the three other majors before capping 2006 with a win in the season-ending WTA Tour Championship.

She had a 60-8 record last year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.