Henin-Hardenne relishes top spot while it lasts. By Will Gray (From GoTennis.com)
ZURICH, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Justine Henin-Hardenne was relishing her position as the new world number one on Sunday but said finishing the year in top spot would be tough.
The French and U.S. Open winner beat Jelena Dokic in the Swisscom Challenge to take over from Kim Clijsters as number one on Sunday, but the WTA said she would drop to number two again next week because of the way the ranking system works.
The points are so close between Henin-Hardenne and her Belgian compatriot that her decision not to go to Linz in Austria next week will push her back down.
But that is no concern for Henin-Hardenne, who posed with a board of tennis balls in the form of a number one after beating Dokic and re-appeared later in a pink WTA 'number one' T-shirt with her name on.
(I want to see a pic of this
"I will keep it for a week now then we will see," she said.
"I decided not to go to Linz and I am sure it was the right decision because I have to be 100 percent in a few weeks for the WTA Championships (in Los Angeles in November).
"Becoming number one is because you won grand slams and you won big events. It is not a result. It is very important, but what helped me to be number one was winning the French Open and the U.S. Open and all the other tournaments.
"So the (WTA) championships are my next goal. I will take care of my body in the next two weeks and then maybe I can finish the year as number one. Being at the top is not easy but staying at the top is going to be the most difficult," she added.
The Belgian missed out on the top spot when Clijsters beat her in the Filderstadt Grand Prix last week, but many believe she is now the rightful owner of the pedestal position.
"She has played consistently and won two grand slams this year so she definitely deserves it. Kim has played very consistently too but maybe Justine deserves a little bit more than Kim," said Dokic.
Henin-Hardenne's key moment came at the French Open in June when she beat the then world number one Serena Williams in the semi-final before defeating Clijsters for her first grand slam title.
After losing to Williams in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, which the American went on to win, she enjoyed a 22-match unbeaten run, winning tournaments in San Diego, Toronto and her second grand slam at the U.S. Open -- beating Clijsters again.
Anastasia Myskina ended her run in the final at Leipzig but, having lost just nine of her 83 matches this season, her win rate at almost 90 percent is second to none.
She puts her strong form down to a heavy fitness regime.
"I think it was about a year ago that I said to myself 'if you want to be number one and stay at the top for a long time you have to work physically very hard,'" she said.
"The level right now in women's tennis is unbelievable and you have to be 100 percent all the time. Especially as I am not so tall, I wasn't so strong so I knew I had to work harder."
That level will become even higher when Venus and Serena Williams return from injury. Neither are expected back before the end of the year so Henin-Hardenne will not meet them until January at the earliest. She cannot wait.
"I hope they will come back really soon," she said with a smile. "All the players are missing them because you want all the players at the top. They are great champions and have won so many titles so I still have to improve my game!"