HAMBURG, Germany, May 14 (Reuters) - 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 tennis.
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 Berlin.
“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 dream.”
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 be there.
“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