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Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Monday, 31 May 2010 19:56 UK

Justine Henin stays positive after losing to Sam Stosur

French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
Live video streamed from 1000 BST on BBC Sport website (UK only) and BBC red button; commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra; also live on Eurosport; text commentary on BBC Sport website Details of BBC coverage

Justine Henin loses at the French Open
Henin in reflective mood before having to wave au revoir to Roland Garros

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros

Justine Henin appeared to be the least surprised person in the press room after her fourth-round defeat by Sam Stosur at the French Open.

The 27-year-old Belgian had returned to the scene of four previous victories with many expecting her to add a fifth Roland Garros title just five months after coming out of retirement.

Her compatriot, Kim Clijsters, had set the bar high by winning her first Grand Slam tournament after ending a similar exile from the sport last year at the US Open.

Henin almost matched that feat at the Australian Open in January, but returning to the Parisian clay - where she had not lost a match since 2004 - seemed the perfect time to return to winning major titles.


It seems the Belgian herself was one of the few people who did not have her down as the pre-tournament favourite in a field missing the injured Clijsters and without a stand-out rival on the red dirt.

"I didn't feel this way," she insisted after her defeat on Monday. "All the expectations were coming from the outside, everyone wants to see me at the level that I was, but the confidence that I got in 2007 - it took many years to get to that level in terms of mental confidence.

"I was really here to play match after match. I'll keep some positive things from this tournament but I didn't consider myself as the favourite. If I could win one or two more matches you can start dreaming but that's not the case any more."

The words "transition" and "confirm" were heard more than once as Henin spoke after the match - the transition from being an ex-athlete back to competing at the highest level, and with that the need to confirm your return as a major player to your peers.

"When you come back at this level after two years off you know it's not going to be easy to deal with a lot of situations, and that means I still have to work harder and see it as a big challenge," she added. "I took this year as a year of transition, so of course it's hard, but in another way it seems a bit normal.

"It's going to take some time but I said it from the first minute I was back on the tour. I said it's not easy to come back and it's going to take a bit of time and there have been a lot of good things in the first five months of the season, but it's not easy.

"I knew 2010 would be difficult, even if in Australia I got very good results there was the surprise in me coming back to the other players.

"We can see there have been some ups and downs. I knew it could happen and now is the time when I'm going to have to say it's now that I have to fight, because they are difficult moments, and I'm ready to do it."

The Clijsters factor has been a constant line of questioning since she returned and, although their once frosty relationship appears to have developed positively as the pair have grown older, Henin must have tired of having her achievements this year repeatedly compared with her compatriot's in 2009.

There are so many things I have to work on and we'll see what happens

Justine Henin

"It was great what she did at the US Open and I admire that a lot because I know how hard it is," said Henin. "I wasn't that far away in Australia but after that you have to confirm."

Aside from Clijsters, the perhaps even more trying comparison Henin is asked to make is with her former self, the winner of seven Grand Slam titles and world number one who retired so unexpectedly three years ago.

"I don't want to compare because these two periods are so different," she said. "The player I was at that time, it took me so many years to be at that level.

"To come back physically and mentally and emotionally, you can talk about having the nerve at the right moment when you have to be strong, but you're not used to it any more being in this kind of situation.

"You have to start again and that takes some time, so it's very hard to compare. What's in the past is in the past and I have to look forward now."

When Henin announced her return to the sport at the end of last year she was quick to target a first Wimbledon title, which would complete the set of Grand Slams, but if she truly did not expect to win in Paris then then there is no danger of hopes running too high on her least favourite surface.

"I want to go as far as possible every day but in 2010 it's probably a bit too early to say it's my goal to win it," said Henin. "There are so many things I have to work on and we'll see what happens."

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