Justine Henin announced her return to the WTA Tour on Sept. 22 after an 18-month retirement. Ranked No. 1 when she stepped away, Henin was considered "the female Federer" by Martina Navratilova for her domination in spending 117 weeks at No. 1. Here is a look at the 27-year-old's career, which to date has included 41 tour victories, $19 million in prize money, seven Grand Slam titles -- and some controversy, too.
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Henin hinted at bigger things to come when she won the 1997 French Open girls' title.
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Henin, a Belgian, turned pro in 1999 and promptly won her first tournament, the Flanders Women's Open in Antwerp, Belgium. She also made her main-draw debut at a major that year, pushing Lindsay Davenport to three sets in the second round of the French Open. A year later, Henin cracked the top 50 for the first time.
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With a powerful forehand and beautiful one-handed backhand, the 5-foot-6 Henin broke through in 2001 with her first Grand Slam final appearance, at Wimbledon. After charging past Jennifer Capriati in the semis, Henin fell to defending champion Venus Williams 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 in the final. (Wimbledon remains the only major she hasn't won.) By year's end, Henin was ranked No. 7.
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In an epic fourth-round match against Lindsay Davenport at the 2003 Australian Open, Henin rallied from down 4-1 in the third set to win 7--5, 5--7, 9--7 in three hours and 13 minutes. Henin overcame leg cramps to beat Davenport for the first time in six meetings.
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Henin, seeded fourth at the 2003 French Open, won her first major title by rallying past then-No. 1 Serena Williams in a three-set semifinal and rolling over fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the semifinal. The first of Henin's four French championships was accompanied by controversy. Serena accused Henin of "lying and fabricating" after Williams, leading 30-0, 4-2 in the third set, was unable to replay a serve even though Henin appeared to ask for time. Williams, perhaps rattled by jeers from the fans, lost the game and Henin ended up winning the set 7-5.
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A few months after winning her first major, Henin added a second at the 2003 U.S. Open. Henin showed grit again in the semifinals when she overcame Jennifer Capriati despite being two points away from losing 10 times. Henin then clinched her seventh title of the year and climbed to No. 2 in the rankings with a victory in the final against top-seeded Kim Clijsters. Henin would reach No. 1 for the first time in October 2003.
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Henin began 2004 by winning her first and only Australian Open title, again beating Kim Clijsters in the final. But she then endured a four-month stretch in which she won only one match while dealing with a viral infection. That made her Olympic gold-medal-winning performance at the Athens Games that summer all the more impressive.
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The most infamous moment of Henin's career came at the 2006 Australian Open final against third-ranked Amelie Mauresmo. Behind 6-1, 2-0, the top seed retired, citing intense stomach pain caused by overuse of anti-inflammatories for a persistent shoulder injury. Many challenged the veracity of her claim, and Mauresmo said it wasn't "a champion's behavior" and acknowledged that the incident affected their friendship. It was the first women's Slam final to end with a retirement in the Open era (since 1968).
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Henin withdrew from the Australian Open on Jan. 4, 2007, to deal with the divorce from her husband, Pierre-Yves Hardenne. Her absence from a lead-up tournament and the Slam allowed Maria Sharapova to supplant her atop the rankings, but Henin said the time was necessary to ensure her life was back in order.
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In 2007, Henin joined Monica Seles as the only players in the Open era to win three consecutive French Open titles. (Henin has not dropped a set in any of her four finals appearances at Roland Garros.) She rounded out the year with her second U.S. Open title, beating both Williams sisters en route to her seventh major victory.
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On May 14, 2008, less than two weeks before she was to defend her French Open title, the top-ranked Henin retired at 25. ''I always based everything on this motivation -- this flame -- that was in me. And once I lost that, I lost many, many things,'' she said. Henin became the first woman to quit while holding the No. 1 ranking.
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