Justine Henin was Australian Open champion 16 years ago and as she sat down to reflect on her career ahead of this year’s event, the memories came flooding back for the 37-year-old Belgian star.
What is your favourite moment from the Australian Open?
Winning the tournament in 2004 was more than a dream. It meant I won three Grand Slams in a few months, I was 21 years old now and it was something really fantastic. You are so far from your family and communication was not the same as it is today, so you felt a little bit further with the jetlag and everything. But this was such an emotional moment for me. One of the top five of my career, for sure.
And your worst defeat in Melbourne?
When I lost to Amelie Mauresmo in the final in 2006. I was really sick with my stomach and I could not play. It was a tough moment in my career.
Looking back to 2004 and your victory in Melbourne. What does it take to win?
It is always tough to win a Grand Slam. A few months before I won in Australia, I won my first in Roland Garros and then I confirmed winning the US Open. Then I won in Melbourne and it was always a place I loved to visit. So I am very excited to go back now, especially because I have this distance a little bit also from tennis.
Are you a fan of Australia?
Of course. It’s the winter in Europe when we play there and the weather is always great. You go to Australia and they love sports, they have this culture so it is just a fantastic atmosphere over there. I can’t wait to go back because I didn’t go back for a long time and looking back it was a really special place for me.
Do you still follow tennis?
I am really into it because of the commentating, because of my Academy, I am involved with my Academy every day working with the young players and I hope maybe part of the next generation, who knows? On another hand, I really have distanced in my emotions and I can look at the game differently with no pressure. I have to say that it is fantastic also to be away from that and really to enjoy the game so it is going to be great to go back.
What do you miss most about being a professional tennis player and competing at the top?
I don’t even know if I am missing a lot of things today because you know when you get that feeling that you did everything you could. For the time that you had to do that and it’s time for something else, but it ends. It is a life with a lot of adrenaline so it can be something maybe that we can miss but also it means there is less pressure at the same time and I like to live with a little less pressure now, for sure. I also miss the travelling also because I love to move, I love to be in contact with a lot of people.
What is your life like now as a mother of two children?
My life is much more stable today and I got used to that. I love watching the game today with that emotional distance. I think what I take from that experience in the game is for the moments that I really loved the most which are these moments that you question yourself all the time – how can I be better, how can I push myself? I really loved it when I got into a difficult situation on court and still when I watch this kind of moments, these tight moments, that you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s something I love to watch.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
Novak Djokovic not ready to ease off.
Simona Halep impressed by Elena Rybakina.
Fresh from a 9/1 winner, Derek Bilton is back with more tennis betting tips.
Tennis Today features Nadal, Djokovic and more.
Cristian Garin wins ATP Tour title No 4.
Djokovic on Federer and Anderson’s setbacks.
Stefanos Tsitsipas does it again in Marseille.
Your draw for the 2020 Mexican Open.
WTA Tour No 20 title for Simona Halep.
Stefanos Tsitsipas on course to successfully defend title.