Henin announces retirement, again

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

MELBOURNE, Australia -- For the second time in three years, Justine Henin has decided to retire from professional tennis, this time citing a lingering elbow injury.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion retired from the sport for the first time in May 2008 and became the first woman in the history of professional tennis to retire while ranked No. 1. She made a successful comeback at the beginning of last season, reaching the final at the Australian Open and capturing a pair of titles in 2010.

During a fourth-round loss to fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon last July, Henin suffered a right elbow injury and did not play for the remainder of the season.

"I have undergone several tests the past few days, confirming that my elbow has sustained a lot more damage during my adventure in Australia," the 28- year-old Belgian said on her website.

"It is clear now that I have to accept that my career ends for good," she added. "Even if it is hard, very hard, at a time when I came back with enormous fighting spirit."

Henin was expected to face the United States in a Fed Cup quarterfinal, with Clijsters, next week. Her last match turned out to be a third-round setback at the hands of two-time major titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova last week at the 2011 Aussie Open, where the 13th-ranked Belgian was seeded 11th.

The three-time year-end No. 1 Henin captured 43 WTA singles titles, including the seven Grand Slam championships, and was ranked No. 1 for a total of 117 weeks. She amassed more than $20 million in career prize money and leaves the sport with a stellar win-loss record of 527-116.

Henin tallied four French Open titles, two U.S. Open crowns, one Australian Open championship, a Fed Cup title in 2001, and an Olympic gold medal in 2004. Wimbledon was the only major event she failed to win.

In 2006, Henin became the seventh player in the Open Era to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same calendar year, joining legends Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and Martina Hingis.

The 5-foot-5 Henin was renowned for her beautiful one-handed backhand, incredible athleticism and unrivalled mental fortitude and work ethic.

"Justine Henin will go down as one of the greatest female athletes of her era. She has been an incredible ambassador for women's tennis on and off the court, and her fighting spirit, tremendous courage and ultimate success has captured the minds and hearts of millions of fans around the world," said WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster.

Henin's intense demeanor made it hard for fans to rub up to her, especially in a country that's in love with the effervescent Clijsters.

The diminutive star acknowledged that on Wednesday.

"If there is one thing I could regret, it is that I protected myself too much and could not be closer to you. I hope you will forgive me," Henin said.

After retiring from tennis in 2008, Henin turned her focus to charitable work, becoming a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and creating the "Justine For Kids" association, which helps develop and fund projects to aid sick children and their families.


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