Still not at 100 per cent after elbow injury: Henin

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Perth,AUSTRALIA - Justine Henin is to make an uncertain debut against hosts Australia when the Hopman Cup mixed team event begins Saturday, with Belgium’s seven-time Grand Slam champion still not fully healed after a summer elbow injury.

“My elbow is getting better but it is now six months from my injury so I can’t say I am 100 per cent,” the world number 12 said Wednesday after arriving in Western Australia from China.

“I am working very hard on it - I spend two hours every day,” said the 2010 Australian Open finalist. “When we heard about the serious injury there were concerns about the future of my career.”

“I can improve, but it may take a few more weeks, maybe months, to really be like I wish I could be. It is a big lesson for me, I have to work harder on this and it gives me the discipline again.

“I am not feeling free of all the pain but I am in the right direction for sure.”

Henin returned to tennis a year ago in Brisbane after reversing a retirement which lasted barely 18 months, losing the Queensland final to Kim Clijsters before facing Serena Williams for the Open title three weeks later.

After a modest fourth-round finish at Roland Garros where she owns four titles, Henin hurt her elbow in a Wimbledon fourth-round loss to compatriot Clijsters in July and has not played since then.

Henin is teaming up with Ruben Bemelmans for Belgium opening against Australia with Lleyton Hewitt and Alicia Molik.

Given her lack of match play, Henin, 28, is keen to get stuck into the round-robin Hopman format, with winners from the two groups meeting in the final.

“After the injury, being guaranteed a few matches in good conditions and to have a week off also before the Australian Open, I thought it was a really good opportunity for me to play doubles and to get more rhythm,” she said.

“I like to play events that I have never played in the past. It is another experience, my first time in Perth and I am feeling very happy about this choice. We will see how it is going to happen but after the injury it is probably the best for me to compete.”

The understandably cautious Henin had few expectations to offer for the Australian Open starting January 17.

“Just the first round is going to be important for me, and then we will see step by step. Women’s tennis has a lot of ups and downs and no one is dominating too.

“Serena is not going to be there, so it is going to be wide open,” Henin added. Williams withdrew injured after not playing since Wimbledon.

“I don’t consider myself as one of the biggest favourites. I just see myself as one of the players in the draw.”

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