Justine Henin Interview

Posted on June 10, 2007

Day 14 - An interview with Justine Henin  - Saturday, June 9, 2007

Transcribed Interview

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't want to take away from your fire, Justine, but congratulations. And, and here is Jaroslav Kralik. We did an exhibition here. And as a special gift to you, because apparently, tomorrow the men's champion is getting something special on the court. And we said, "What's the woman's champion getting?"

And they said, "Nothing."

And I said, "Well, okay. So we'll fix that."

And we made a painting on the Center Court on Tuesday, and here it is. There's a little writing, you can read that later. There you go.

And this signifies the draw, and all of the matches that you had to play to get to it. This is the final point. And the point is made -- everything is made of seven colors, because there were seven rounds. And this point was made of 120 dots because there were 127 matches played altogether.

So congratulations. A little something for you to remember.

JUSTINE HENIN: Thank you. Thanks a lot. Thank you, Martina.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English, first.

Q. How would you like to be referred to, "Queen of Clay" or "Lady of Clay"?

JUSTINE HENIN: I didn't think about that question. No, "Queen of Clay" is good, I think. No, it's amazing. I still don't realize what's happening now. When I was a little girl and dreaming of coming here and playing the tournament and winning it, then I did it four times, and three times in a row, and two times without losing a set. I think it's- it's just great.

I wanted this victory so much. You cannot imagine how strong I felt, even if I was a little bit nervous at the beginning of the match. But I couldn't lose this one. I really wanted to win another title here in Paris. And it's a lot of emotions for me. And I'm very, very happy and proud about it.

Q. It was a magical end to a magical story, especially with your family here. Is that really what made it so special for you, above and beyond the matches won and the extra title?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, I think, you know, the match has been pretty easy, even if at the beginning of the match, she had the control for two games. And then she's been pretty nervous, and I did my job perfectly. I served well, and I did what I had to do on the court.

But the atmosphere, and what I felt when I won, and the fact that, yeah, my family was there, and the good people around me. And it's been, yeah, a huge step in my life in the last few months. And I was glad I could give them this victory. Because everyone suffered a lot from the situation in the last few years. And today, finally, we are united in this joy, and we can share this moment, and it's great. And I feel so happy that I can offer that to them.

Q. You pick them out in the crowd right after the match?


Q. Were you able to pick them out all in the crowd after the match?

JUSTINE HENIN: No, I know where they were. I know where they were. And I looked at them, and just looking at each other, we understood a lot of things. And Carlos, also, was very proud that I could give this victory to my family. It was important when I told Carlos that I was in touch again with my family, he wanted me so much to win a Grand Slam and to offer that to them. And we talked a lot about that.

And first Grand Slam after everything that happened, and I can do it. So emotionally, I had to deal with so many things in the last few months - good things, bad things. But I just tried to stay very focused, concentrate, get my motivation, and just try to be happy on the court, and I felt great today.

Q. Can you tell us, first, which members of your family were there? And I think you spoke to your father for the first time last month, was it, after how long a period?

JUSTINE HENIN: Three, three months ago, I think. But I just want to keep that, I mean, really private how it did happen and everything. But my brothers and my sister were here today and my father.

Q. Your two brothers and your sister?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, and my father wished me on TV, but we talk to each other every day. And it's great, yeah. Not everything is easy, but it's great.

Q. Since you have been so private with us about your family and other feelings, I wondered was it difficult for you to acknowledge them publicly in front of 20,000 people today? Did you think about that before you did it?

JUSTINE HENIN: No, not at all. I just, at the end, that's the way I felt, and I think it was great to do it. And I just -- that was my heart that was talking. And you don't -- you know, it's, yeah, you say what you feel, and it's been great. It's been an unbelievable moment for everyone. So the way everything, what happened in the past is the past. And I just want to move forward, and look forward, and enjoy every moment of my life with them back in it now.

Q. To handle those emotions, even if they're joyful emotions, that's disruptive.

JUSTINE HENIN: It's tough, yeah.

Q. So, what's new about you that you can do this now that maybe you couldn't have done it a year ago?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, I've been a little bit surprised, because it's been hard for me, everything I lived in the last few months, ups and downs, you know, I mean, good things, bad things. And then I just realized that it's life. And life is ups and downs and you have to accept it. And you just have to deal with it.

But I've been a little bit surprised how I could handle with the situation. It's been tough. And Carlos helped me so much, because we discussed a lot about that. We knew the situation is different now, and there are good things about it and things that we have to readjust also.

And it's been a great adventure again in the last few weeks to build this victory. And we've been very close, Carlos and me, one more time. And it's really a team victory.

Q. You've played other Grand Slam finals and won some and lost some. But here you're perfect. You've never dropped a set. How do you explain that kind of dominance?

JUSTINE HENIN: Well, I don't know. It's like my garden. I just feel home over here. And I always walk on the court with the goal to give my best and be ready for a tough fight. And if the match is getting easier than what I could expect for, that's pretty good news.

But I had a tough draw over here. And I knew it when I agreed -- when I looked at the draw. I was at the draw ceremony and I wasn't very pleased to play Serena in the quarters, and it's been a tough part. But finally day after day, I said it two days ago, when you arrive in the Grand Slams, it's long. When you look seven matches, pretty tough names on the road, and you have to build something day after day, and I did.

And I just enjoyed every moment of it. So it's great.

Q. First of all, to double fault on the first game and then go down 40-Love and give her the encouragement that she could have a big day today. Was there a shot you hit in that second game which relieved all of the nervousness that you brought on the court? And the second question, you saw a lot of forehands today. Were you surprised at how many forehands she gave you to hit?

JUSTINE HENIN: Well, that game was important. That was important to really stay close to her in the match, very early in the match. And there was, I think, that shot to come back at deuce, I think, so I did hit one or two pretty good forehands. And I felt a little bit more free after that.

But I also felt she started to really be nervous. And the thing is that especially on my return, I was very far from the baseline, and that's good. That's what I have to do against a player who is serving so well. All of the other players, against big serves, they stay on the baseline. And it's easier for the opponent to hit winners after a return like that.

So I just took my time. And I was very far from my baseline, but I played pretty long on the return. And she wasn't really ready for this either.

Q. And the forehand question?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, I think, it's been tough situation for her, first Grand Slam final. And she gave me a lot of points. And I just had to be very solid, very intense, and I served pretty well, actually. I was happy about that, too.

So, no, it's great. Everything was great.

Q. You opened up a bunch of envelopes throughout the match. Can you tell me what they were, and then what the one said that you opened after you had won?

JUSTINE HENIN: That one I'm going to keep it for me. Sorry. I'm sure that's the one that you want to know, but it's just Carlos and me. And the other ones, it's tactically, so you don't care about that. So, what I have to do on my serve, on my return at that time. And so, nothing special.

But like I said, I had some troubles in the first, with my concentration and everything, and Carlos wanted me to be very, very professional on every point, and just remind me a few things at that time, pretty tight times during the match.

But the last one, no. I mean, the thing I can say is that he's proud of me, for sure.

Q. Four titles here. Are you still hungry? You want more? Because you are still very young.

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate that. No, every time I come here, it's to win the tournament. And I did it four times, and I don't know what is the future going to be. But I will give my best again, every year I will come.

Q. This is such an incredible year for any person, let alone a world-class athlete. What word or two do you feel inwardly? Do you feel joy? Relief? Pride? What quality do you feel about this year?

JUSTINE HENIN: I wouldn't say pride, but joy, for sure. I mean, joy, because I can enjoy every moment now. And I take my decisions. I just try to build something, yeah, pretty strong. I just turned 25. I just want to know how I'm going to be happy in my life. And I did big steps, huge steps, and life is short. So, yeah, just happy, very happy.

Q. And last summer could you imagine being where you are now in your life?

JUSTINE HENIN: No, no, not at all, no. It's amazing how life can change. But it's for every person the same. It's because me, we talk a lot about it, because I'm -- yeah, I'm in front of you now, but I'm sure that a lot of you had some trouble, ups and downs in their lives, and that it's tough for everyone. But we come back stronger, for sure.

Q. Obviously, you really wanted to win it third time in a row. And the match, after the slow beginning, kind of went very fast for you. She had psychological problems with her inexperience.


Q. And did you feel at any point that this cannot be so easy? Probably, she might do a comeback or things will not work out as easily. Did you have this kind of feeling?

JUSTINE HENIN: No, I never thought about that. Because you just have to play point after point and be ready for any kind of situation. So I was ready for a big fight. I was ready for an easy match. I was ready for everything, you know. It's good not to expect too many things, and just live the moment, you know, that one.

But at the end, I showed I was really, you know, motivated and on every point. It was important for me to show that I wanted to win every point of the match. And don't let her come back. That was very important.

Q. Ana didn't have any lucky papers. You mentioned Carlos a lot. Would you say that you maybe have the tightest relationship coach/player-wise in the WTA, and that's the way to your success?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah, that's for sure. Yeah, he is a big part. You know, it's 11 years, and that's pretty unique. Not a lot of people, just a few people can do it. And it's tough. You need a lot of respect, you need to be strong, and you need to love each other a lot, also. And I think we have everything in our relationship. And it's just great.

And his family, also, how they support me. How they can deal with the situation. And it's just amazing. We got closer and closer in the last few months, even if Carlos wants to keep some distance. But I think he starts to realize that we -- it's much more than a professional relationship. And he respects me a lot as a player, but much more important, as person.

And it's been amazing how he's been strong in the last few months with me.

Q. Talking about love, there were several "I Love Yous" from the crowd. It would have sounded better in French, right?

JUSTINE HENIN: Well, you know, I'm not really focused on that now in my life, so, thank you.

Q. Was the best part of your two weeks here in Paris after the match when you thanked your family?

JUSTINE HENIN: Uh-huh, it was the best moment, for sure, yeah. But you need to -- yeah, a Grand Slam is hard, and you have to work hard every day. And I enjoyed every moment of my last two weeks, every moment - on the court, off the court. And they also came back, a few matches with my brothers, my sister, it wasn't only today. So I did good spend a lot of time with them. I don't know. Yeah, it's been a great victory for that, for sure.

Q. Are you going to stay for the men's final, and who would you pick?

JUSTINE HENIN: I hope I can stay, yeah. I would love to watch the match. So we'll see. And I would love Federer to win, but I'm not quite sure that's going to happen, so...

I wish, I wish, really. But the best will win. They are both great players, great champions. But what I saw from Nadal is pretty strong.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in French, please.

Q. The pink shirt, pink life, La vie en rose?

JUSTINE HENIN: It just happened at the right moment. I like pink in my life, even besides tennis, outside of tennis. Modestly I can say this color suits me. I like that color.

Everything that happens in my life is wonderful right now. And if I can be rewarded on the court, then it's a great moment for my career and for my life.

Q. You were broken immediately, and you were down 40-Love. What did you think in your mind?

JUSTINE HENIN: It was not going well for me, but I kept calm on every point. I didn't start -- well, that match, I didn't have good feelings. I was afraid of her power. There was no reason for that though, because in that match, in the beginning, she didn't prove she was going to push me a lot. But I knew I had to be afraid of her. And I needed to become clearer about what was going to happen. I reacted to come back. And what helped me a lot was that I served very well. And I was explaining that in English earlier. But my tactics of stepping far behind the baseline for returning was a very important tactical decision, because I was able to return well, and this helped me a lot in that match.

Q. Weren't you afraid that the emotional side of things would have too much influence on that match?

JUSTINE HENIN: No, I didn't panic. I knew I was not starting that match well. I can tell you, I had a horrible night. My herpes came out again, and I said to my doctor, "Well, I see everything is fine, it's great."

So, really, I was a bit anxious. But also, I really wanted to do well. And very early in the match, the match turned over. And then I knew I was going to be able to keep it up until the end.

Q. There was another moment at 5-2 in the end of the match, 30-Love, we saw you with your fist?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yes, often I had bad surprises at the level of the match like this one against Serena, for example. It's really at that moment when you're sure that you won it, that you can come out of it. So I didn't tremble at all at the end of the match. I never was afraid to win. And from that point of view, I think I made a lot of progress.

Q. Your opponent said she had a very good night, contrary to you.

JUSTINE HENIN: This is something you learn.

Q. You and her manage your emotions differently. It was her first final. Do you think the fact that it was her first final and you're experienced made the difference?

JUSTINE HENIN: Well, certainly. But I can tell you, my stress is as big today as the first time I won a Grand Slam. The pressure is there, the tension goes up, and you suffer from it a little bit. But I think you need that if you want to win.

It's been a long time. I didn't spend a night of eight hours or nine hours, so I was reassured in a certain way, because I thought everything is normal.

Q. Does this trophy have a special meaning to you compared to the others? Is it different each time?

JUSTINE HENIN: It's different each time. But this one, for me, is like the first one and like last year. The one of 2005, I don't know. I can't explain that. It's a symbolic feeling.

But this year, of course, it is very special. It's my victory, and that's it. I can say I built it, well, not alone, I had people around me, but I was able to fight by myself and it represents a lot for me.

Q. Again, you win this tournament without losing a set, two years in a row. Did you have moments where you had doubts?

JUSTINE HENIN: The first week was difficult for me. I was not feeling well. I was trying to manage things. But after I won against Bammer, I thought I should talk with Carlos, because I knew that after that I would be able to play freely or else I would fall against Serena.

So this talk with Carlos at that moment helped me a lot. And I knew also that reaching the second week and being pushed a little bit would help me to play my best tennis. So I confess, during the first week, I didn't feel perfectly fit. Of course, I managed things very well, but I needed to think about things. And the discussion I had on Sunday evening helped me to start a new tournament in the second week. And from then on, I had no doubts anymore.

Q. Since the semifinal, you started using little techniques of the envelopes, like the Williams sisters?

JUSTINE HENIN: I didn't decide that.

Q. So I heard, for example, you had to open it at 5-2, and today it was the same. And it was at 4-1 also?

JUSTINE HENIN: It was when I was three games ahead. And also when I was going to serve or return for the match. And I had one last one after the match.

Q. So are you going to continue to use that method? Because we saw on television there were little instructions, we could read a little bit.

JUSTINE HENIN: It's not secret. Because Ivanovic doesn't understand French any way, well, I think so. Well, Carlos will always surprise me. I didn't know he would do that one day, because we are against coaching. But it helped me.

Of course I was feeling strong. I knew I could pull out of that. But, that's it. And I know you like it, because then you can write about that (smiling).

Q. You are a favorite in the tournament, and you are often in the semi or the final. Are you able to manage this status of favorite? How can you do that? Very often you are there when needed.

JUSTINE HENIN: Well, I've been very consistent during the past years, it's true. Always, I am very stressed before my first rounds. It's only at the end of the tournament that I feel better. I feel free. I feel myself. But I am an anxious person anyway. So I never want to miss any points. I always want to be there when needed.

I always was very consistent because I had a very strict discipline in my life, also. I don't want to lose control, and sometimes when I do things wrong, I can feel it. I have an angel telling me that I should be back on track, and Carlos knows me very well. And I need this discipline to be able to do well. I need someone to help me find the right path. And once I'm on it, then it's okay.

Q. If I understood well, you said you were happier than last year. Is this year the year where you felt the happiest?

JUSTINE HENIN: Yes. Each single second counted during this French Open. I enjoy my life even better now. As I always say, you have to fight a lot in life, but when you come out of a fight, you feel stronger. And all this brings me a lot of confidence.

I think if I hadn't had the courage to go forward, I would have had a lot of regrets. And I am very proud and happy that I was able to do it. Things are not always simple, they are still not simple, but it's important to go forward.

Q. Will you be ready to welcome your father here next year?

JUSTINE HENIN: We'll see. I need to take my time. We talked to each other; I knew he was watching television to me. He sent me a message. He's very happy after the match. He's very proud of his daughter. But just take my time. I know one day he'll be with me, beside me on the court.

Q. You said you were stressed before the final. Stress is often being scared. What are you scared of?

JUSTINE HENIN: Of myself, maybe. No. But I believe stress is something positive. It gives you energy. Stress should not inhibit me. It should help me to build something. And this is something I was able to change. Because at a certain time in my life, I was blocked by stress. And now I can use that stress to make something positive out of it.

And I'm sure the best athletes feel the same. So being scared, no, it's not being afraid. Your life is not in danger. But it's being good at the right moment. We never know what is going to happen.

I've been trying, giving everything I have during the past 20 years, and, of course, I want a reward for it.

Thank you very much.