Top-ranked Henin reportedly quitting professional tennis

Updated: May 14, 2008, 9:50 AM ET
Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Justine Henin, the world's top-ranked women's player and winner of seven Grand Slam titles, planned to make a major announcement Wednesday amid reports she will quit the sport.

The 25-year-old Belgian, who has been in a bad slump all spring, called a news conference for 10 a.m. ET.

Henin
Henin
Belgian newspapers reported she was retiring.

Her announcement could range from dropping off the tour for a limited amount of time, to retiring at the end of the season or quitting tennis immediately.

WTA Tour officials in Rome said they'd not received any official communication from Henin.

Henin, who has battled through injuries and a divorce, had a standout season in 2007, winning two Grand Slam championships, eight other tour titles and over $5 million.

However, after winning her home tournament in Antwerp in February, she has been on one of the worst skids of her career, failing to go beyond the quarterfinals at any event.

Henin's year began with a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January, followed by a 6-2, 6-0 drubbing by Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in April, the worst loss for a top-ranked player in nine years.

At last week's German Open, Henin was upset 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 by Dinara Safina in the third round, and then pulled out of this week's Italian Open, citing fatigue.

"She finds it tough, losing matches she normally would not lose," Belgian Fed Cup captain Sabine Appelmans said. "But I don't think her career is over. She has to get through this and then end her career at the top of her game."

Last year, Belgium's Kim Clijsters -- a former No. 1 player -- retired at age 23. She has since gotten married and become a mother.

Wednesday's news conference came less than two weeks before the start of Henin's favorite tournament, the French Open, which she has won the past three years as well as in 2003. She also won the Australian Open in 2004, and the U.S. Open in 2003 and 2007.

The only Grand Slam title to elude Henin is Wimbledon, where she was runner-up in 2001 and 2006.

Henin has been ranked No. 1 since Nov. 13, 2006, except for a seven-week period last year when Sharapova held the top spot. Henin has won about $20 million in career prize money.

Throughout her career, Henin has had to beat the odds.

With her slight, 5-foot-5 frame, she had to battle the giants in the game. With a superb one-handed backhand, amazing speed and endless determination, she rose to the top of the sport.

Henin lost her mother to cancer when she was 12 and only reunited with her father and close family last year after almost a decade of separation. During her difficult youth, tennis gave her a sense of mission and the sport became all-encompassing.

In early 2007, she divorced from Pierre-Yves Hardenne after four years of marriage.

Throughout last season, Henin said she had finally found a balance in her life between personal self-fulfillment and doggedly pursuing tennis titles. But then her game began to unravel.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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