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Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 16:14 UK

Clijsters rivalry inspires Henin

Justine Henin and her coach Carlos Rodriguez
Henin and her coach Carlos Rodriguez held a news conference on Wednesday

Former world number one Justine Henin says her long-time rivalry with fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters served as an inspiration as she returns to the game.

The Belgian, 27, announced on Tuesday that she was coming out of retirement after just 16 months.

It follows Clijsters' return in August, which culminated in an incredible victory at the US Open.

"It is a source of inspiration and motivation," Henin said of a rivalry which began when both were teenagers.

"I have come to realise that I would not have been this strong if she had not been there at the time."

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Clijsters returned to tennis after a two-and-a-half year break in August, and beat both Venus and Serena Williams on her way to a second Grand Slam title in just her third tournament back.

And the 26-year-old has welcomed her compatriot's decision to return to the sport, saying: "I think that Justine's comeback is good news for women's tennis but even better news for Belgium in general.

"Justine worked really hard in the past to achieve great results that she recorded in her first career. For tennis it is brilliant that she's back."

Henin and Clijsters played each other 22 times on the WTA Tour between 1999 and 2006, with Henin winning 12 times including all three of their Grand Slam final meetings.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin
Henin beat Clijsters in the 2006 Wimbledon semis - their last meeting

The last time they faced each other was in the Wimbledon semi-finals of 2006, with Henin taking it in straight sets before losing to Amelie Mauresmo in the final.

Henin has made it clear that a first Wimbledon title is her priority and that she hopes to play until at least the 2012 London Olympics, when she will be 30.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner expects to return an improved player in 2010 and plans to remodel her serve in the coming months.

"Justine is convinced we can reconstruct her serve," said her coach Carlos Rodriguez. "We have time."

Henin added: "I continued to work on my serve, even when I was number one. We said that perhaps, one day, we will get there: to get 65 or 70% of first serves.

"I am not 1.85m, so technically it has to be perfect."

She hopes to return at the Australian Open in January, for which she would require a wildcard as she no longer has a world ranking.

"Any time you can welcome a past champion on a comeback trail it's an opportunity you would never want to miss," said Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley.

"We would love Justine to be a part of the Australian Open again. It would be great to have her involved in tennis again."



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see also
Henin plans 2010 tennis comeback
22 Sep 09 |  Tennis
Henin announces shock retirement
14 May 08 |  Tennis
Henin bows out at the top
14 May 08 |  Tennis
Henin 'is best of her generation'
15 May 08 |  Tennis
Justine Henin's career in photos
14 May 08 |  Tennis
Henin suffers shock Berlin defeat
08 May 08 |  Tennis
Clijsters seals dream US Open win
14 Sep 09 |  Tennis
Lay-off aided US run - Clijsters
14 Sep 09 |  Tennis


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