Players need more time off: Henin
January 8, 2005 - 6:49PM
Shattered former world No.1 Justine Henin-Hardenne has rekindled calls for a shorter tennis season after a broken knee bone forced her to abandon her Australian Open defence before it even began.
Henin-Hardenne will fly home to Belgium on Sunday for desperately-needed rest after an MRI scan revealed a micro fracture of the right femural condyle bone.
The triple grand slam champion doesn't require surgery but doctors have told her to sit tight for another four to six weeks, ruling her out of the first grand slam of the year starting at Melbourne Park on January 17.
Henin-Hardenne said although she sustained the injury while practising in Florida at Christmas she pressed ahead with her plans to warm up for the Open at the Medibank International in Sydney next week.
"I took rest, I did everything I could. I came here. I was confident but then the rest didn't help and my pain is getting worse and worse," she said.
"To keep playing is not going to help me, so I have to take rest because it's a serious injury but it could me more serious if I keep playing.
"I don't want to stay out of the circuit for another six months so I have to be careful right now.
"I'll have to be smart. Making this decision is very hard to accept but I have to take it and I'm sure it's the good one."
Henin-Hardenne's late scratching has stunned Australian Open director Paul McNamee and left the tournament void of both last year's women's finalists.
Fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters on Friday officially declared herself a no show because of an ongoing wrist injury.
Henin-Hardenne's condition follows a nightmare 2004 in which the Belgian was largely bed-ridden for eight months with what, until Saturday, everyone deemed to have been a mystery virus.
But, in what must have been a worrying revelation for tennis officials, Henin-Hardenne claimed she was actually suffering from "burnout" - at just 22.
"It was more than a viral infection. I think it was a burnout," she said.
"In 2003, I played so many matches and worked so hard that I really never stopped playing, never took a break.
"This kind of thing happens to all of us. I remember at the end of 2002 Lleyton Hewitt had the same kind of problem and it's tough because when you're not 100 per cent, you cannot compete. It's frustrating."
Henin-Hardenne's debilitating illness, which sapped her energy and left her constantly feeling lethargic, restricted her to just nine tournaments in a stop-start 2004.
After making a brilliant start to the year with victories in Sydney and Dubai either side of her Australian Open triumph, Henin-Hardenne was first sidelined for seven weeks.
The world No.7 attempted a comeback at the French Open but was confined to bed again for almost three months after crashing out in the second round as the Roland Garros titleholder.
Henin-Hardenne made a brave and glorious return at the Athens Olympics, snaring the gold medal, only to lose in the fourth round at the US Open a week later.
She hasn't played since and has now joined the chorus of players hoping tennis's agenda setters reduce the length of the season some time in the near future.
"It's the opinion of all the players, that's for sure," Henin-Hardenne said.
"But it's not easy to make a good calendar for everyone. We have to find a good way. It's not an easy situation and I totally understand it."
Henin-Hardenne said she didn't want to go to Melbourne Park half-hearted.
"I don't want to go to the Australian Open with a 50 per cent chance because I am sure I cannot go to the end of the tournament like this," she said.
"It's disappointing because I was so happy to be back and playing again.
"I was working hard for the first time in a year and this injury with my knee is really bad luck.
"It's very bad for me to start 2005 like this. But I am sure everything is going to turn very soon.
"I'll have my time again, that's for sure."