Henin aims for Wimbledon title in return

BRUSSELS (AP) - Justine Henin is seeking the elusive Wimbledon title in her return to the WTA Tour.

It's the only Grand Slam the former top-ranked player hasn't won. And it loomed large in her decision to end a one-year retirement from the sport.

"It is a dream of mine," Henin said Tuesday. "I want to work to get it. I make it a priority."

Barely a week after compatriot Kim Clijsters capped her comeback from retirement with a second U.S. Open title, Henin announced her return live on Belgian TV.

Henin was one game away from victory in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007 before losing to Marion Bartoli. Henin's coach Carlos Rodriguez, who also will make a comeback, believes she can take the grass-court title.

"I can see her winning it," Rodriguez told RTL-TVI network. "This fourth title, it is one of the reasons for coming back."

Henin's announcement capped an about-face from her "definitive decision" to retire last year, followed in recent weeks by "no comment," until a smiling admission Tuesday that she truly missed the game too much.

"A flame I thought was extinguished forever suddenly lit up again," Henin said on TV.

Her plans include exhibition tournaments in Charleroi, Belgium, and Dubai, to hone her skills ahead of a competitive return at the Australian Open.

"Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women's tennis, and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled," WTA Tour chairman Stacey Allaster said in a statement. "Justine is that rare athlete who decided to step away from the game at the height of her powers, and no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with from the get go."

As Clijsters has proved, breaking into the top tier is realistic. Clijsters won the U.S. Open in her third tournament since returning from a 2 1/2-year retirement to get married and have a baby.

"Subconsciously, it might have had an impact," Henin said of Clijsters' success. "But it certainly was not the most important reason."

Henin retired in May 2008, initially rejecting any thought of a comeback with a determination that marked her play in a decade-long career that produced seven Grand Slam titles. She said she was tired of nagging injuries and living in a bubble while chasing titles.

During her retirement, Henin became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and focused on vaccinations for children in the Congo, Cambodia and Denmark.

But she said she couldn't fight a competitive spirit that still burns.

"Adrenaline is part of my life, my existence. It is in my character," she said.

Like Clijsters, the 27-year-old Henin is still in her prime and has been able to rest her body. She stepped away from the game after a string of early tournament exits just ahead of the French Open, a tournament she's won four times.

Henin was the first female player to retire at No. 1, having earned nearly $20 million in prize money and holding the top ranking for all but seven weeks since Nov. 13, 2006 until her retirement.

"The last 15 months, I've been able to recharge the batteries, emotionally as well," Henin said.

On Tuesday, Henin was back hitting balls, using the constant repetition of strokes to regain perfection under pressure.

"The toughest moment is right now. It is to create the foundation," she said.

Henin said she wants to play at least until the 2012 London Olympics, when she will be 30. She won gold in singles at the 2004 Athens Games.


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