Experience of playing first Grand Slam is something you never forget, says Justine Henin

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin will share her experience and journey with upcoming Indian tennis players when the French Open junior wild card tennis tournament kicks off in New Delhi on April 29.

"The first experience of a Grand Slam is something you never forget. I remember the first time I went to play a Grand Slam at the Roland Garros. I told myself that one day I would be the women’s champion there," said Justine Henin, who went on to win four French Open titles.   -  Getty Imahes

Seven-time Grand Slam winner and one the finest women tennis players of all time, Justine Henin, will share her experience and journey with budding Indian tennis players during the French Open junior wild card tennis tournament to be held at the DLTA Complex from April 29.

"It is a great opportunity to promote the Grand Slam that I love and talk about the advantages of clay court tennis. I am sure the kids will have a lot of questions. I will be ready to answer all of them,’’ said Henin on a telephonic interview with Sportstar.

Henin felt the French Open junior wild card tournament is a great opportunity for youngsters to get a taste of the Grand Slam tennis early in their career.

"(A player's) junior career is very important. You can’t do it alone, you need support from the parents, coaches, national federation, sponsors, etc. When you get the taste of a Grand Slam, you realise that you have to work very hard to be a top professional," she said.

"The first experience of a Grand Slam is something you never forget. I remember the first time I went to play a Grand Slam at the Roland Garros. I told myself that one day I would be the women’s champion there," she added. Henin went on to win four French Open titles.

Justine Henin poses with the trophy after defeating Ana Ivanovic in the 2007 French Open final.   -  Getty Images

 

- Ever-smiling Saina -

India's best women's tennis player till date and, six-time Grand Slam champion, Sania Mirza had played against Henin at the Australian Open in 2011. The Indian won the first set, but lost the next two sets. Henin would go on to announce her retirement from tennis following the Australian Open.

The Belgian recalled Sania as a "great doubles player, regular in Grand Slams, always smiling, and with nice words."

Justine Henin and Sania Mirza shake hands after their clash at the 20111 Australian Open. Henin won the match 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.   -  AP

 

Talking about India's inability to produce another woman tennis player of Sania’s calibre, who reached a career-high ranking of No.27 in singles and stayed as No.1 in doubles, Henin said, "Maybe, India is too occupied with soccer or cricket. It all depends on how many get the opportunity to play tennis,’’ while conceding that she did not have enough knowledge to provide the right answer.

- No regrets over missing out on Wimbledon crown -

Having won four Grand Slam titles at the French Open, two at the US Open and one at the Australian Open, apart from winning the Olympic gold in Athens and the Federation Cup for Belgium, the Wimbledon title somehow evaded her.

"My love story was with the Roland Garros. Once I won the French, I wanted to win another Grand Slam. I know that Wimbledon, all the players love it. I tried and hoped that I could win there. Maybe, I did not win because I did not feel that I was good enough on grass. It was perhaps lack of confidence. We were chasing perfection all the time and improving. But, I am not frustrated. I did the best I could. Would I exchange one of my Roland Garros titles for Wimbledon? I wouldn't," said the two time Wimbledon runner-up.

Henin won the other three Grand Slams, but failed to win the Wimbledon throughout her career. The closest she came to lifting the trophy was finishing runner-up on two occasions.   -  AP

 

The 36-year-old Henin, who now lives in Monte Carlo, said she had heard a lot about India. "I have heard people saying that a trip to India can change (your) life. I love to travel. But, with two kids, I don’t travel much. Maybe, when they grow up, I would enjoy travelling with them. At the moment, I want to meet the Indian players and spend a lot of time with them," said Justine.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos