ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – Tributes are flowing in from around the world for Justine Henin, who on Wednesday announced her immediate retirement from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 25-year-old Belgian became the first woman in the history of professional tennis to retire from the sport while ranked No.1 in the world.
Henin, winner of 41 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles – including seven Grand Slam championships – is currently in her 117th week as the world No.1, sixth on the all-time list. She has amassed $19,461,375 in career prize money and compiled a 493-107 win-loss record in singles. But more importantly than any statistics, the 5-foot, 5 3/4-inch (1.67 m) Henin was renowned for her spectacular backhand, incredible athleticism and unrivalled mental fortitude and work ethic.
“Justine Henin will be remembered as one of the all-time great champions in women’s tennis, and a woman who made up for her lack of size with a will to win and fighting spirit that was second to none,” said Larry Scott, the Chairman & CEO of the Tour. “It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules, in the very best sense of those words. History will remember Justine for not only her seven Grand Slam titles and three years finishing as the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s No.1, but for one of the most graceful backhands the sport has ever seen and an ability to overcome any and all obstacles placed in her way on and off the court.”
“Pound for pound Justine is the greatest player of her generation,” said Tour Founder and tennis legend Billie Jean King. “I trust she has not come to this decision quickly or easily and I wish her the very best. Justine is an extraordinary player and a special person and a true champion both in tennis and in life.”
Added Scott: “This is a sad day for our sport and for her millions of fans around the world, but I know that I speak for so many in wishing Justine the very best in her future endeavors and hope that she will stay connected to the sport to which she gave so much.”
Among her many accomplishments, Henin achieved the following:
- Finished three seasons ranked No.1 in the world (2003, 2006, 2007);
- Won her seventh and final Grand Slam singles title at the 2007 US open, beating both Serena and Venus Williams en route, the only player ever to beat both Williams sisters at a Grand Slam and going on to win the title;
- In 2007 she had her most successful season ever, winning 10 titles (including two majors) and becoming the first female athlete to pass the $5-million mark in a season;
- Was of the most successful players of all time on clay, winning Roland Garros four times in five years (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007);
- Won every major title except Wimbledon, taking the Australian, French and US Opens at least once, along with two season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships (2006, 2007) and an Olympic gold medal (singles) in Athens in 2004; she also led Belgium to its first Fed Cup title in 2001.
Henin is the first current world No.1 to retire from professional tennis, and only the fifth Top 5 retiree, after Margaret Court in 1977 (No.5), Chris Evert in 1989 (No.4), Steffi Graf in 1999 (No.3), and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in 2007 (No.4).