Justine Henin is back playing tennis again. After suffering a season-ending elbow injury six months ago at Wimbledon, Henin in Perth this week for the Hopman Cup.
But the former No, 1, or the “Federer of women’s tennis” as the reporter calls her (reporter also mistakenly calls her from “Berlin”!), says she’s still not 100% recovered from the injury. She says she still is “few more weeks” if not months from being back to full strength.
Here’s the video interview:
And here’s the Hopman Cup presser after her first win Saturday over Alicia Molik:
Q: Thank you very much for joining us Justine. Fantastic to get the win I suppose because it was a little bit rusty a few breaks of serves early. What are your thoughts?
A: Well it’s my first match in a few months and I’m coming back from the elbow injury. Alicia wasn’t an easy opponent to play first because she’s changing the rhythm a lot. Especially with the slides I was a bit out of the rhythm and with my serve I had to work really hard in the last two weeks just to try to serve with no pain. I’m not yet 100% but feeling much better. It’s good for the first match. I won so that’s the most important.
Q: I was going to ask you about your elbow. How did it feel out there? Are you still feeling some pain?
A: Yeah I mean I can’t play really 100% free of pain but it’s getting better. Still a few weeks ago I really didn’t know if I was going to able to compete in Australia and I think it’s been a lot of hard work on my elbow. I’m just glad I’m healthy – almost there. Now I just have to build my confidence back and find a rhythm of the matches here.
Q: Good signs for Australia’s point of view. Alicia as you said was a tough opponent for you; she plays a good game doesn’t she?
A: Yeah and a very smart player also. She can do a lot of things and is very talented. In the second set I was up 3-0 and then she came back and played pretty well at that time. She just went for every shot and I think she took her chances and the opportunities and I could play better at the end of the second set.
Q: First time in Perth, I hope you behaved yourself at the ball last night. Are you having a good time so far?
A: Yeah a very good time. I love Australia; I feel fresh to come here and didn’t come for a long time, so Australia is the best place to start again. It’s my first time in Perth. It’s a great organisation and great event where I’m guaranteed to play a few matches also before the Australian Open. The heat is tough for us coming from Europe, but it’s a good feeling to be here.
Q: We always love watching you play and you know, so many opponents have big games – you are obviously not as big, but you are back at it. Everyone loves having you back. How did this become such a great part of your game? Is it just something that came naturally to you?
A: Yeah I mean even at five years old I was hitting one hand/back hand and I never really thought how to hit my back hand. Sometimes I’m getting lazy with my legs because I had to work much harder on my forehand. Now I have to be really concerned all the time about my footwork, but I think today was good in hindsight.
Q: Tell us about your motivation. Obviously you retired, we all know the story. You came back last year. It was an amazing year, the first half, but you got injured. What are your motivation levels like now and what drives you to keep playing?
A: Well the motivation is pretty high. In my first career, before I stopped, I was so much in my bubble. These two years off showed me that there was another life away from competitions. So the challenge is to come back and be, like I said, at the top level but also finding the good balance. Personally I feel much happier, much better. I needed that break and now the motivation is high to win the other big events in the future. I’ll have to be patient. That is going to be my resolution in 2011 – being more patient.
Q: Is that something you still need to work on?
A: Patience is not really my biggest quality – far away from that.
Q: You showed last year you came back so quickly and competitive at the top level – do you think you can get back to that quickly or are you going to need to wait a bit longer?
A: I’ll need a little bit of time probably. Even if I should, I could be back at a good level pretty soon, but now I’m more focused on long term plans for the whole season. The goal last year was being qualified for a championship. I was there before getting injured and it was pretty sad, but now I just hope I can stay healthy and be at tournament after tournament. We will see for this season.
Q: And anything off the court that you are going to do while you’re here in Australia that you’re looking forward to?
A: Well my coach’s family is here, the kids are here so they want to visit a lot of things. I’m going to take off a day or two, probably tomorrow, go to the beach a little bit and meet some people form Perth. It’s a very nice experience for us.
Q: Well good luck, a great start for you. Good luck here at the Hopman Cup.
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