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January 15, 2011

Justine Henin


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Justine.

Q. How are you feeling about your preparation, readiness to play?
JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, I feel very happy and very lucky I can be here because still, yeah, like I explained in Perth, a few weeks, a month ago, I wasn't quite sure I could be here.
So I feel, I mean, it's a great opportunity. It was my big comeback last year, 12 months ago. Then a lot of things happened. It was tough, after five months of my comeback, to be away for such a long period.
But now I can say I'm getting there. Slowly but surely I'm almost healthy. It's a lot of work, a lot of questions. But I had a great time in Perth. First time at the Hopman Cup. I had good matches. I've been working pretty good since that.
I mean, the goal remains all the time the same: it's try to win every match that I have to play, and then we'll see. But had very good workout, feel pretty confident.

Q. You say you don't think you're going to be playing your best tennis till summer, but surely you're a contender here.
JUSTINE HENIN: What I said is I'll probably need a few more months to be completely free of the pain in my elbow. It doesn't mean I cannot compete and try to, yeah, be close to my best or what I can produce. But I need matches. I need rhythm. I need a lot of things. But we all know a lot of things can happen.
But I never want to look too far. I think a Grand Slam is hard enough like that. It's a long way. So I'm really here to be in this moment right now. On the court, it's going to be the same. In every practice, that's what I'm trying to do, just to work hard. I think that's what's gonna help me to find my level again soon I hope.

Q. Given that the injury happened when you were moving in to play a volley, has there been any psychological effect about footwork when you come in to the net?
JUSTINE HENIN: It's much more complicated than that. To get into my matches, I need a really long warmup to put my elbow at the level I want to. So it's a lot of workout every day. First minutes of the practice are pretty tough for me. I need 10 minutes to really get into it.
But, yeah, before the matches in Perth, I had very good warmup. Wasn't too, too bad. But it is true, there are some movements that I still not feel a hundred percent and at my best. But mentally I think it's great for me that I have to come through. I think after this very difficult time, the day I will be free of that, I think I'm going to be much stronger also mentally.
I'm getting there. I mean, I'm not at the point where I want to be, but I'm getting there.

Q. 10 minutes, the extended warmup. Are you feeling pain or is it lack of movement?
JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, I need everything - the tendon, ligament, the muscles - to be warm. So I need to hit balls and hit balls. Yeah, now I'm getting used to it actually, so that's a good thing. And I hope with the matches, I have to play matches, I have to play a lot and to deal also sometimes with the pain. I have to practice a little more, rest a little more.
But it's okay. It's part of the game. I mean, it's no excuse. I'll go on the court, give my best. If I'm here to compete, it's just to give everything on every shot, and the elbow shouldn't be an excuse for me here in this tournament.

Q. You know the girls well on the tour. Who do you see as possibly the top favorite for the tournament on the women's side?
JUSTINE HENIN: It's always very hard when the tournament didn't start yet, especially at the beginning of the season. You never know exactly. Everyone is fresh mentally, but you need to find the rhythm again of the competition.
You know, when I'm away from the courts for an injury, I'm really away from the tour. I don't follow the game that much. But you still have the older generation, I should say. I'm part of it. Kim, Venus of course. Two big, big players. Then the new generation is coming up.
It's going to be a big battle. There is a lot of concurrence. But, yeah, we know the few names that can go to the end. But a lot of surprises also happen in Grand Slams. So who knows what's going to happen this time.

Q. Sam Stosur, a lot of pressure on the Australian.
JUSTINE HENIN: I can see the way she improved in the last two years, it was just unbelievable. Everyone was talking about her, about doubles player before. In singles she improved so much. She found the confidence. She has a very heavy game. She's talented. She's a work harder [sic].
I think she has the opportunity, but it's very hard to compete well at home. I'm sure she has great motivation. So she's one of the players who can do great results over here.

Q. Is she better on clay than hard, do you think?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, she's tough on clay. Unfortunately, I made the experience last year (smiling). Great serve, great kick, big forehand. That helps on the clay. Having more like a men's game. Very heavy balls. Especially with her forehand, when she starts to dictate the point with her forehand, it's very hard to, yeah, follow the rhythm.
But probably clay is her best surface. But I'm sure she can play very good on hard if she can deal also here with the pressure in Australia.

Q. When you were forced to take the five or six months off last year, how did you spend that time?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, for my rehabilitation a lot. So I was spending a few hours a day focused on my elbow. Then I've been working quite a lot in my academies. Yeah, I was in China before coming here. In Belgium, I did spend a lot of time also with Carlos working there. I mean, it was a very good experience. I like to work with the younger players.
I did, yeah, many other things. I moved to my new house. Live in Brussels now. So a lot of things generally. Yeah, it was tough for me to be away, but I just tried to use that time to do other things. And I've been happy. Even if it was hard, yeah, I couldn't compete, I was happy to do other things also.

Q. How many students do you have with the various academies?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, the academies are working at different levels. Tennis is for everyone. So it means in Belgium, in the different academies we have in Belgium, it's 1,500 kids I think. But we have 25 full-time from all over the world in the elite team in Brussels. We are in the States.
And in China, it's working very good. There are a lot of things to do in China. That's our challenge also, to help tennis over there the way we can.
It's great to be by the young players' side and just try to help them grow up, not only in terms of being champions, but just in terms of human being. We just do the best we can. It's a great experience.

Q. What do you take from your performance here last year? Does that help inspire you for this year?
JUSTINE HENIN: You always can take something, a feeling, a bit of experience. But when we talking about experience, that can help. But every tournament is new. A lot of things can happen. You have to be focused on this moment and the future.
Last year was great because it was much more than what I could expect for. I was coming back. I didn't know really what I could wait from this tournament. It was more than a dream. Unfortunately, I couldn't go to the end. So I have some regrets about last year and the final. But the level I played after being away for a year and a half was just great.
I love to play here. I hope it's going to help me again this year.

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