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Henin the last to believe her Roland Garros hype

Last updated on: June 1, 2010 11:36 IST

Henin never looked the same this time

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Justine Henin was supposed to ride into Roland Garros, scene of four stunning triumphs before her retirement, and gallop away with another Grand Slam crown. The problem was she did not quite believe it would happen herself.

The Belgian had not lost at the claycourt slam since the second round in 2004, winning a hat-trick of titles from 2005 and was seemingly invincible on a surface and in an arena that seemed made for her.

Yet she never quite looked the part this time around.

"I didn't feel it this way. I mean, all the expectations are coming from the outside," said the 27-year-old Belgian when asked why she could not muster a fifth title.


Image: Justine Henin
Photographs: Reuters
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Not back to her best

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And those expectations fell short of the mark.

Her majestic backhand had lost some of its venom, her movement round the court seemed slightly more deliberate and her opponents have gone up several levels since she started her 20-month retirement just before the French Open in 2008.

She recorded convincing enough wins in the first two rounds, and though she was not helped by playing five days straight because of weather problems, the signs that she was not back to her best were there for all to see against Maria Sharapova.

The Russian 12th seed is not in the best shape of her life herself after shoulder surgery, but she found enough chinks in Henin's armour in their third-round clash to suggest the Belgian was vulnerable.


Image: Justine Henin

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'I didn't consider myself as the favorite'

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And so it proved against Samantha Stosur on Monday, the Australian running out a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 winner.

"Everyone wants to see me at the level that I was and to compete, but the confidence I had in 2007, it took many years to be at that level.

"I was really here to play match after match, and that's what I did. I take some positive things from this tournament, but I didn't consider myself as the favorite.


Image: Justine Henin

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'It's not an easy time for me'

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"If I could win one more match or two more matches you can start dreaming, but that is not the case anymore," she said.

Even if her arsenal is not quite so formidable, there is no questioning that the desire to succeed still burns as brightly as ever.

"It's not an easy time for me. It's always difficult to lose, especially in a place as much as I love Roland Garros, without having been able to show your best tennis.

"That's part of my life. I mean, I'm a high level athlete. I've never had to manage difficult moments like this in my first career. I have to come to grips with it. I have to work on it," she added.


Image: Justine Henin

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