Justine: 'It's a little knee, a little stomach, shoulder, I deal with lots of things'
Henin-Hardenne hopes for healthy shot at winning again
The Desert Sun
March 9, 2006 March 9, 2006
INDIAN WELLS - For better or worse, Justine Henin-Hardenne made a vow to stay healthy this year to get back to world No. 1.
That's where she was when she won the Pacific Life Open in 2004, but for the past two years she's battled multiple health problems with her knee, stomach, and shoulder that often kept her out of tournaments and, in some cases, away from the game for months.
This year, however, she's begun a new regimen and it's guided her to the No. 3 ranking in the world. She is seeded first here at the Indian Wells event.
"I'm just so happy to be back in Indian Wells," said the 23-year-old Belgian, who already won at Sydney and Dubai this season. "It's a very special tournament and when you win the tournament, it's always special. I couldn't be here last year because of an injury another injury, but I'm happy to be back."
Henin-Hardenne, a three-time finalist and two-time winner this season with a 14-1 record, will face the winner of the first-round match between Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova and Spaniard Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Still she is concerned with an injury that she says will plague her for the remainder of her career.
She's dealt with knee problems, hamstring pulls, hypoglycemia, a long bout with cytomegalovirus (viral infection), but is worried most of all about nagging shoulder tendinitis. Another ailment she's contracted is an ulcer that she says wreaks havoc because she's admittedly "an anxious person."
"It's a little knee, a little stomach, shoulder, I deal with a lot of things," she said. "I'm getting better but slowly, taking care of myself."
Henin-Hardenne was criticized for an illness at the start of the season when she defaulted out of the final of the Australian Open against No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo. Anti-inflammatories taken for her shoulder pain caused a reaction and stomach pain. She could not continue after falling behind, 6-1, 2-0.
"I was sorry about the way it ended for Amelie (the Frenchwoman's first Grand Slam) but I cannot feel responsible for that,'' she said.
"It took me time to get better. It was two to three weeks to go to another level. It's still going to take a few weeks, but you don't live in the past, you have to stay focused on what to do today."
Now, despite winning in Sydney and for the third time in Dubai, where she beat Maria Sharapova, 7-5, 6-2, she's resting her recurring right shoulder tendinitis between tournaments.
"It's a serious problem in the shoulder so I am not serving at all (in practices)," she said. "I rest my shoulder (so) I can play without any problem but I have trouble with that. It's a tendinitis problem and it's something that will be there for my whole career."
Henin-Hardenne said her new recovery program begins with rest, but she's added more running to keep her fitness. Exercise has been introduced to compensate the shoulder.
"I'm playing consistent enough, but not playing as much," she said. "This year if I stay healthy I can have chances to get better - and better in rankings. But that's not my main goal. The first is to stay healthy. It's frustrating because you can't go out and do what you love to do so much. But if I stay healthy, everything will come pretty quickly."
While 2004 and early 2005 were marred be either illness or injury, the solid baseliner still possesses that lethal backhand although she is serving 20 kilometers (equal to 12.43 miles per hour) slower than she was when she felt 100 percent at Sydney.
"We work on the flexibility and the agility and do more running than in the past," she said. "The work is a little different. But I don't work as hard and give time to my body to recover."
With a Tour schedule that runs from January to mid-November she knows it's difficult to take time for recovery.
However, she said it's the same for all the players. That's the reason she doesn't consider herself a favorite here or any place else.
"The calendar is full and players play a lot of tournaments," she said. "It's hard on the body. The intensity of the game is getting higher and higher. Sometimes your body just says stop. "It doesn't matter what your seed is at all. When you walk on the court, two girls want to win the match. Everyone has a chance to win. That's what makes tennis so interesting."
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams