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Feb 6th, 2003, 10:18 AM
Cherchez l'homme: Pierre-Yves Hardenne, Justine Henin's fiancé

The glamorous modern world of tennis is hard to find in the centre of Marloie, a tiny little village near Marche-en Famenne. Henin and Pierre-Yves have lived there in a small flat for two years. On the ground floor there's a butcher Bouche des Ardennes. They are getting married on 16 November 2002.

Pierre-Yves Hardenne: We had been talking about marrying for a year and we finally decided in autumn last year. It was a bit tricky to set a date: Justine has only two weeks off a year. So November would be perfect.
It'll be a simple (modest) wedding. Justine is a simple (modest) girl and she's not used to luxury. We are inviting 250 people to come for a drink and some 60 for dinner: relatives and the most intimate friends. There are not many good friends.

Humo: You're both young: Justine is 20 and you are 22?
Hardenne: Why ought we to wait? We've known each other for 4 years, we've been living together for 2 years and we are very close. Justine has been dreaming of marrying for years, like most girls of her age. I feel the same way.

Humo: You met each other in August 1998. Was it love at first sight?
Hardenne: We saw each other for the first time during a tournament of my club in Han-sur-Less. I was on the verge of my tennis career and I won the final. Justine gave me the trophy. She was a little bit ill that day, but she did what she had promised to the organization. I didn't even know who she was but I fell in love. She felt the same for me. Three days later I was playing tennis in Mebre, when I saw her staring at me. I didn't know who she really was, but that night she called me and asked me out for a drink. Well, ....Justine knows what she wants. Three days later we were a pair.
Hardenne: In the beginning we didn't see each other much. I was a gym student and I stayed in Louvain-la-Neuve on weekdays. In the weekend we went out together, if Justine didn't have to play or practise. She took part in a lot of tournaments at that time. It was a hard time: we called each other all the time but we saw little of each other.

Humo: Her father did not approve of your seeing each other. And Justine and her brother Thomas didn't get along well. Did she break up with her family, when she was 18?
Hardenne: Yes, but the breaking up was caused by several things. Justine's family was never very lucky (her mother had cancer and died when Justine was only 12; her elder sister Florence was only three when she was run over by a drunken driver, just in front of her father José; her nephew Emilien, the four-month-old son of Thomas died last year) and her father feared that Justine's ambition would tear apart his family altogether. She has a younger brother, David, and a little sister, Sarah.
But Justine knew what she wanted: she had taken her mother's role for years and she wanted to be independent. Eventually, she left her father. It's a pity, really. The next day she was all on her own. That's why I gave up school: I couldn't just leave her, could I? We moved in together, first at my parents', then we moved house and came to live here. My uncle had a flat to let, so one second later we signed the contract.

Humo: And this split with her father will never be mended?
Hardenne: No, it won't. After Wimbledon it seemed to be possible, but the attempt at conciliation failed. Her family won't come to the wedding. In the beginning our relationship was damaged by the split. But, eventually, it has made her stronger and it's brought us together.

Humo: Giving up your studies must have been a tough decision. You have sacrificed yourself, haven't you?
Hardenne: Travelling alone is not easy, if you're a girl of 18. Justine asked me if I wanted to accompany her and I said yes. I may have been forced but it was the best choice for both of us. It wouldn't have worked if I hadn't taken that decision. She only comes home every 2 months and I didn't want to sit and wait here in Belgium, all alone.

Humo: Did you know she was a rising star at that time?
PY: Well, I quickly learnt she was an exceptional girl. When I met her, she was a junior and began to take part in 25,000$ tournaments and was successful. One year later she played Lindsay Davenport at Roland Garros. It was a great match. Other successes and victories followed.

Humo: Did you have to adapt yourself to her way of life?
Hardenne: Not terribly. We aren't fond of going out dancing. Justine abhors discos. I don't smoke or drink. And I'm fond of sports. I love tennis. So we clicked with each other. She earns the money, I don't. That's different from other couples. Everything revolves around her and her career. We go on holiday twice a year. We're going to Corsica next month and in November, we're going on honeymoon. She won't take her racket with her.

Humo: You, are very dependent on Justine. Doesn't that frighten you?
Hardenne: We get along just fine and I needn't be scared that I'll ever be on my own again. I sometimes dream of a flife of my own, yes, I sure do. If I had had the choice, I wouldn't have given up my studies. But I'm just trying to make her happy, there's a time for everything. Nevertheless, I'm always trying to study while travelling. When Justine's tennis career is over, I'll have find an occupation. And though I love travelling with her, I regularly get bored.

Humo: Normally, you nor Justine will ever have to work again.
Hardenne: We won't have to do it for the money, I agree, but one can't just idle.

Humo: You are a B4 player yourself. Haven't you ever thought of a career of your own?
Hardenne: I would never have been successful, because I lack talent. Justine likes to come and watch me play. She's taught me that backhand and now I try it again and again.

Humo: Is your job tough?
Hardenne: It's quite allright. I'm her manager. I do all the things she hates or cant do. I'm good at organizing things.

Humo: You also look after her relations with the press. There will be much more interest?
Hardenne: Oh, it's not that much. The WTA looks after these things when we are abroad. She is obliged to give 3 or 4 interviews when she takes part in a tournament. Last year she was asked to give more interviews. If she wants, she can give one interview a day. But we try to limit it.
She does not like being interviewed. It's part of the job, but she tries to avoid it. She's not interested in making the front pages of Paris Match. She never reads her interviews. It's my job to make sure the wrong questions are not asked. Now and then we have to stop an interview. She prefers not to talk about her family. A few journalists have written things she hadn't said, but the press has usually been fair. So she finds it normal to do something in return.

Humo: Justine is successful. She is famous in the world and she may become very rich. Do some people not try to exploit her?
Hardenne: They sometimes do. As soon as she became famous, we knew who our true friends were: a very small group. I've lost all my friends. Partly, because I was never at home, but also because they envied me. A lot of people are jealous, even in this village. That's why we'll move house after the wedding. We'll go and live in Waals-Brabant. It's time to leave.

Humo: Until then you will have been living in a rather small flat. That's your choice?
Hardenne: Absolutely. We are modest, we live a simple life. Justine has won a Porsche recently. She would never buy such a car herself. Luckily, she likes it. I've bought a Honda CB900. Justine was against it. I already had one and she thought one motorbike is enough. But I've bought it and she rode with me in the beginning. Now she always refuses. She finds it too dangerous.

Humo: No luxury, you said. Who administers the money?
Hardenne: We both do. I do it more than she does. We have a financial advisor. He's doing just fine. If one of us needs some money, we just take it. And if we are about to buy something very important, we talk about it first. Justine is very frugal: she does not do anything foolish. She'll never buy something useless. And she won't take a cleaning woman.

Humo: Why not? I'm sure you can afford her?
Hardenne: Why should we? The flat is rather small. I can do it myself. We may have one after the wedding when I can't find the time any more. We won't have a villa built: if you're never at home, you don't need one. We have never dreamt of a residence, we have always lived modestly. It may take quite some time before we gat settled. That's why we are buying a flat. It'll do.
I always take care of the household: I cook, I clean, I iron. I've learnt it with ups and downs. I had no choice, but I don't mind either. Men must help in the household. I love ironing. If she's around, she helps me. We always do the dishes together.
When Justine cooks, the meals are rather, how shall I put it, stereotypical. If I let her, we'd eat potatoes, sausages with cauliflower or applesauce every day. I'm not a chef myself, but I can prepare country food: pasta, healthy and low-fat meals.
I never eat chips, but Justine loves it after a long tournament. That's how she 'goes out of her mind'.
We never drink alcoholic beverages, not even a glass of wine. I don't like it and she doesn't either. Noone may smoke at our place.

Humo: One of Justine’s great qualities is her character, she is a fighter. Is she like that at home as well?
Hardenne: She knows what she wants. She’s always made up her mind and she always says what she thinks, but she’s also very sweet. There’s one thing she hates the most: «show», «just empty show». Tennis is her way to win, she goes for it enbtirely. When she’s with me, she’s much more indulgent. We never quarrel. But we never practise sports together. We both hate losing terribly, we always want to win. I won’t let her and anybody else make a fool of me. I can’t be on the court with her, because we always start arguing.

Humo: Justine is very serious. Do you sometimes notice she’s still a teenager?
Hardenne: No, not often. I’m a loose liver myself. I love laughing, joking, but she’s always serious. She doesn’t have a lot to do with any relatives of her age any more. She does hang around with other young tennis players, Kim of course, and a few other girls. So now and then, I still see she is a young girl. But not at home. Actually, she’s a very mature woman.

Humo : Always serious, on the alert for false friends, no contact with her family ; she must be very lonely?
Hardenne: We are together, that’s more than enough. Justine has got a few friends. She gets along with my parents, two aunts (women of 50). Friends never come to visit us. If they did, we would only talk about tennis and that’s what we do all day.
Now and then Justine and I go to the movies or to a restaurant. People recognize us, but leave us alone.

Humo: Aren’t you afraid of losing each other?
Hardenne: We’re both certain of each other. Sometimes, I find it difficult I have to share her with the crowd. I’d rather have her all to myself. I hated the weekend in Belgium when they played the Fed Cup. She’s only two weeks here and when there’s a tournament everybody demands her attention. She knows I hate that, but she can’t do anything about it. I’m very protective. If I watch her play tennis with boys, I don’t feel at ease. I notice some are more interested than others, but they have no chance. Justine is very jealous. I may not look at other tennis players (smile).

Humo: That mustn't be easy. The women's tour is full of beautiful young women.
Hardenne: In the beginning I didn't know where to look first, but you get used to it. Whether it's Anna Kournikova or another girl who passes by, it doesn't do my anything. They don't come up to me either, everybody knows I'm with Justine and that no one can come between us. Though maybe it's Justine who's telling them not to come near me (smile).

Humo: Are there any other boys who travel with their girlfriends or fiancées?
Hardenne: Most tennis players have a relative who tavels with them, a father, a mother or a coach. A lot of them have boyfriends, but good relationships are rare: life there is too difficult. It makes things difficult: there’s nobody I can share my feelings with. Boys of my age are hard to find. I’m surrounded by parents, coaches and tennis players.

Humo: Is there much contact between the entourages of top tennis players? I mean, do you ever talk to father Williams?
Hardenne: Hardly. We say hello and that’s about it. We sometimes have supper with Kim’s family. I sometimes play table tennis with Lleyton, is he’s got some spare time.

Humo: What do you usually do to pass the time?
Hardenne: Last year I was bored to death: a long tournament in the US, disappointing results. It was hard to bear. I go in for sport, two or three hours a day. But most of the time, I’m bored. The days are long. There’s nothing adventurous about it. In the beginning it’s nice to think one’s travelling to Bali, but as soon as you get there, one doesn’t see anything of Bali at all. I might go sightseeing, but on my own? Justine can’t join me all day long. In the morning she has to train, in the afternoon she has to give interviews. Her head is not into it, mostly. She wants to concentrate on the tournament. So I stay near her, to be with her whenever she is free.
Justine would like me to there when she trains, but I won't do that. You have no idea how long the training lasts. I've often seen her.

Humo: Justine has been working with Carlos Rodriguez for years. You're a threesome. Do you never quarrel?
Hardenne: We are a team. He does his part of the job, I do mine and together we are there whenever Justine needs us. It's quite allright, the three of us, I can't remember anything that upset one of us. I do notice Carlos and Justine are pretty close, but I know why.
I'm often very happy that carlos is around. We talk to each other about Justine when she's not there. He is very understanding and gives loads of good advice. He tells me how to help Justine.
Carlos has never been against me, on the contrary: we like each other a lot, and we help each other. It's very pleasant to be amongst men. Every evening after supper, when Justine has gone to bed he and I have a drink and chat.

Humo: You're 22, you don't have many friends, you often get bored... Aren't there a lot of things you are missing?
Hardenne: I sometimes miss people of my age, the things youngsters do, the life of a student. That's why I give tennis lessons at my club: that's a piece of my own life.
Justine has quickly grown up, due to what happened in her family. Everybody sees the glitter and the glamorous life tennis stars lead, but they sometimes forget that we are just two young people who want to enjoy life. We've both missed some part of our youth.

tx to Djuus from justine-henin.net messageboard :)

Apr 15th, 2003, 02:31 PM
bump! I really liked this interview.

The Crow
Apr 15th, 2003, 02:45 PM
Thanks for the bump saki, I missed this ;) He seems like a nice guy...