Wimbledon 2006 Biography: Justine Henin-Hardenne

Justine Henin-Hardenne is is a former World’s number one ranked tennis player from the Belgium, who, like Amelie Mauresmo, is know for her one-handed backhand – a stroke which John McEnroe has called the best backhand by any player, male or female. As of June 2006, she has won five Grand Slam titles, including three at the French Open, as well as the 2004 Olympic Gold Medal.

Henin-Hardenne established herself as a major competitor in 2001 when she reached the semifinals of the French Open and the final of Wimbledon. By the end of the year, Henin-Hardenne was ranked number seven in the world, with three titles to her name.

In 2002, she reached four WTA finals, winning two of them and finished the year as the world’s number five ranked player.
2003 was the year of Henin-Hardenne on the WTA tour. In June, she won her first Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, defeating compatriot Kim Clijsters in the finals, 6-0 6-4. In September, she won her second major tournament, the US Open, beating Clijsters again in the finals, 7-5 6-1.

Henin-Hardenne began her 2004 season by winning a warm-up tournament in Sydney, before going on to clinch her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. By the start of the 2004 clay court season, her health was affected by a virus and she often slept up to 18 hours a day, barely able to brush her teeth, let alone play competitive tennis.
In August, of ’04, Henin-Hardenne somehow found the strength to win the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, defeating Mauresmo of France in the final, 6-3 6-3. Her plan to rejoin the tour in the beginning of 2005 was delayed when she fractured her kneecap in a training session in December 2004.

On March 25, 2005, after more than six months of inactivity, Henin-Hardenne returned to the WTA circuit. Seeded 10th in the French Open, she went on to defeat the French player Mary Pierce, 6-1 6-1, to take her second title at Roland Garros.
In January 2006, Henin-Hardenne beat reigning world number one Davenport and fourth ranked Sharapova in three-set matches to set up a final match against Mauresmo, the world’s number three ranked player. While trailing 1-6 0-2, she retired from the match. Henin-Hardenne’s decision to give up, citing a stomach pain, was greeted with controversy, as she became only the second player, and the first woman, to retire from a Grand Slam final in the Open Era.

At the French Open in June, the defending champion was able to rebound and stormed through her semi-final match by dismissing second seed Clijsters, 6-3 6-2 in a relentless display of attacking tennis. She then defeated Kuznetsova in the final, 6-4 6-4 to win her third title in four years at Roland Garros.

Henin-Hardenne captured the title without the loss of a set and became the first French Open champion to successfully defend her title since Steffi Graf in 1996.

Henin-Hardenne is undeniably one of the best female tennis players in the world and obviously one of the top contenders for this year’s Wimbledon.

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