BRUSSELS, September 22 – Former world number one Justine Henin announced her return to the WTA tennis circuit here on Tuesday saying "the flame has been rekindled" after a 16-month self-imposed retirement.
The 27-year-old seven-time Grand Slam winner broke the news on Belgian television and following compatriot Kim Clijsters, who capped her return with victory in the US Open this month.
"I was very impatient and I am really happy and deeply moved to be able to announce this evening that I will return to competition very quickly," she told RTL-TVI.
"It is suprising because on May 14, 2008, I called an end to my career.
"And then I’ve been down a long personal road. And then the flame has been rekindled, I thought it had been extinguished."
Coach Carlos Rodriguez said Henin wanted to win Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam event to elude her.
"We want it (Wimbledon). It’s one of the reasons for her return," said the Argentinian vowing "to make her even better than before."
Henin had retired saying the desire had gone and she wanted to take care of her family, foundation and tennis school.
But talk of a Henin return started last month when she resumed training to play in exhibition matches in Charleroi, Belgium, and Dubai at the end of the year.
Then there was the stunning success of compatriot and old rival Clijsters who won the US Open on September 13 just five weeks after she ended two years of retirement during which time she married and had a baby.
Born in the city of Liege in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Henin burst onto the international scene in 2001 with three WTA tour victories.
Small in stature but gifted with a fabulous one-handed backhand, a great all-round game and a tough mentality, she went on to win seven Grand Slam titles in the next seven years – four French Opens, two US Opens and one Australian Open – as well as two WTA Tour Championships.
She won a total of 41 WTA Tour titles and held the world No.1 spot for 117 non-consecutive weeks, a position she had when she retired on May 14, 2008 citing a succession of injuries and a desire to live a life away from tennis.