Henin-Hardenne's return keeps workmen on their toes
By Jessica Halloran
January 6, 2006
A WORKMAN carrying a ladder carefully dodged one of the many tennis balls the Belgian pocket rocket smashed. As Justine Henin-Hardenne hit up for the first time on an Australian court this summer, workmen were still sprucing up the Sydney International Tennis Centre for the tournament that starts on Sunday.
Her husband, Pierre-Yves Hardenne, was her hitting partner while coach Carlos Rodriguez watched with great intent and gave her instruction every so often.
The 23-year-old moved strongly, showing no signs of the hamstring strain that has kept her off the circuit since last October. Her husband says she's feeling good and the recovery program has gone to plan.
It is almost two years ago that Henin-Hardenne was proudly gripping the Australian Open trophy, but she's tipped good friend and compatriot Kim Clijsters to take the title in Melbourne this year.
In a recent interview, HeninHardenne's husband said that his wife is also in the mix to make the final stages after recovering from the hamstring strain.
"If she can get to the quarter-finals this time, who knows after that," Hardenne said. "But last year she was disappointed the way the season started and finished." Henin-Hardenne was forced out early from the Australian Open in 2005 because of a knee injury.
In the break last November and December, she went on safari in Africa and on a boat excursion off the South African coast to check out some sharks. After that holiday she started training, again with good results.
"My injury must disappear completely," Henin-Hardenne wrote in an online diary. "I am not exaggerating, it must not worsen again. I am quite pleased with the rate I'm working at right now with my tennis … This tendonitis problem is a tough injury to heal, but it will be gone!"
Meanwhile, Martina Hingis's vanquished opponent in the quarter-finals of the Australian Women's Hardcourts event yesterday said there was no reason why the Swiss could not return to the top of the world game.
Hingis defeated Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 in the toughest test of her serious comeback to professional tennis following three years in retirement due to recurring foot injuries. The 25-year-old former world No.1 will take on Italian Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals of the $239,000 event at Royal Pines.
Fourth-seeded Pennetta defeated Hingis's doubles partner, French teenager Tatiana Golovin, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 yesterday.
Top women's players Lindsay Davenport and Clijsters have both cast doubts this week on whether Hingis can regain the No.1 spot she first earned as a 16-year-old in 1997 and held for 209 non-consecutive weeks.
"I have no reaction to that," replied Hingis when told her old adversaries had hinted it might be difficult for her to reclimb to the summit.
"I can only play match by match and get out there and compete."