World No.1 Henin stamps her mark despite the heartaches

PARIS: Belgian star Justine Henin proved once again that heartache is no barrier to success as she hammered home her domination of women's tennis in 2007. 

The year could not have gotten off to a worse start for the 25-year-old who missed the Australian Open following her divorce from husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne. 

Henin: ‘I'm finally happy and very much at peace with myself.’ – Reuters

But since February it was full steam ahead for Henin whose only major slip-up was her semi-final defeat to France's Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam missing from her collection. 

Between Wimbledon and the season-ending WTA Championships, Henin was undefeated, a feat not achieved since her idol Steffi Graf did the same 18 years ago. 

She won 10 of the 14 tournaments she competed in, including a fourth French Open and second US Open crown for what was her most successful season ever with a record-breaking US$5mil in winnings. 

At the beginning of 2008 she will pass the mark of 100 weeks as world number one and looks set to hold that spot for some time. 

Henin believes she is stronger than ever mentally as she has found a balance in her life after rekindling her relationship with her estranged father and siblings during the year. 

“Basically I feel good mentally. I'm finally happy and very much at peace with myself,” she said.  

“This has definitely been the best season of my career so far. 

“It has been a very challenging year overall, but I have stayed positive and proved that nothing is impossible if you work hard. I still think my best tennis is yet to come.” 

Svetlana Kuznetsova, who finished the year as number two, could not match Henin. The Russian won one title and had five runners-up finishes including the US Open, before helping her country secure their third Fed Cup crown in Moscow. 

The Williams sisters however proved they could never be ruled out as they claimed the two Grand Slam titles not won by Henin. 

Serena won her eighth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open after arriving in Melbourne ranked 81 following an injury-blighted 2006. 

But despite the second half of her season being hit by injuries the former world number one finished the year at number seven. 

Older sister Venus became the lowest-ranked Wimbledon champion in history, as she claimed her fourth title from a 31-ranking. 

The circuit bid farewell to former world number ones with Martina Hingis, the last player to win ten titles in one season in 1997, and Kim Clijsters. But while Hingis left protesting her innocence after a positive test for cocaine during Wimbledon, Belgian Clijsters retired ahead of her July wedding and impending motherhood. 

Hingis' exit was a sad end for one of the teenaged stars of the game in the 1990s who first retired in 2003 due to persistent ankle injury problems before returning to the circuit in 2006. 

Another former world number one Lindsay Davenport put her retirement on hold as she returned just three months after giving birth to her first son, Jagger, and captured singles titles at Bali and Quebec City. 

But for some of the stars of 2006 it proved a difficult year. 

Former world number ones Amelie Mauresmo of France and Russia's Maria Sharapova slipped down the rankings as they battled injuries while Russia's Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova finished the year outside the top ten for the first time since 2004. – AFP  

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