| HAMBURG, Germany
HAMBURG, Germany May 14 As recently as last
week Justine Henin spoke warmly of continuing her French Open
love affair, of having another crack at Wimbledon and defending
her Olympic title in Beijing.
It's true that the Belgian number one also spoke with
evident longing for a leisurely retirement of travel and
reading, but she gave no indication that her short term plans
were for anything other than her own personal triple crown
between now and August.
"It's just a great feeling, playing at the French Open --
the surface, the fact that it's a long love story between the
French and me," the 25-year-old told Reuters in an interview at
the German Open in Berlin last week.
"It's like my garden. It's very emotional. As soon as I'm
there I feel magic is happening. It's unique."
Her announcement on Wednesday that she was quitting the
sport with immediate effect came as a huge shock to everyone in
She will retire with seven grand slam titles to her name but
without having won Wimbledon and without the sort of farewell at
Roland Garros a great champion deserves.
"The French Open is my favourite tournament," she had said
in an interview going into the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in
"It's going to be very special. Wimbledon will also be
special for me this year because time goes fast and I only have
a few years to do it. But the French Open, I would love to go
for a fifth one. That would be a dream for me -- more than a
Henin even looked further ahead to the rest of what might
have been in incredible year, saying how eager she was to
experience another Olympic Games.
"The Olympics is very special," Henin, who had been
sidelined for three months before the 2004 Games with an
energy-sapping illness, told Reuters.
"When I was in Greece and I won the gold medal there I
didn't know what to expect. I was back from my virus but I was
still quite tired. But emotionally it was so intense and that
gave me so much energy so I'm very excited and I can't want to
"It's going to be quite a heavy summer, quite busy, but I
feel ready for it."
A couple of days after highlighting her plans for the rest
of the year to Reuters, she played her first match in Berlin and
seemed to revel in the return to her favourite clay surface as
she beat Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan 6-0 6-2.
The following day she was not so comfortable, as she lost to
a stronger and hungrier Dinara Safina, the eventual champion.
That, incredibly, was her final match.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)