Australian Open organizers have granted a wildcard to former world number one Justine Henin to play in the opening grand slam of 2010.
The 27-year-old Henin announced last month that she was returning to competitive tennis, shortly after fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters capped her own comeback by triumphing in the U.S. Open. Henin will be relying on wild cards or enter qualifying to get places in the main draw of WTA Tour events until she can improve her ranking. “I spoke to Justine’s team over the weekend and was happy to grant her request for a wildcard into the Australian Open,” tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement. Henin, who won the Australian Open in 2004, will be among the star attractions at Melbourne Park from January 18-31. “Watching Kim Clijsters’ amazing win at the U.S. Open was inspirational — who knows, perhaps the two will meet again at the Australian Open. I’d certainly look forward to that match,” Tiley said. “Justine is the ultimate competitor, the winner of seven grand slam titles, and we are looking forward to welcoming her back to the Australian Open.” Henin walked away from tennis in May 2008, claiming she had lost motivation after a series of injuries.
Clijsters happy to be working mum role model
Unseeded Clijsters secures U.S. Open victory
Henin announces shock return to tennis
Henin tastes first home triumph
She is set to return to the court at the Brisbane International tournament which starts on January 3, and is also rumored to be negotiating a place in the early season event in Auckland, New Zealand. Henin’s arch-rival Clijsters won the U.S. Open in dramatic fashion in only the third tournament of her comeback after a three-year break from the game. Australian Open organizers have a total 12 wild card slots in each of the 128-strong draws in the men’s and women’s singles. They are normally granted to promising young players or returning stars who have been hit by injury or on the comeback trail like Henin. In other tennis news on Monday, the WTA officially confirmed that Serena Williams is the new world number one. The American takes over from Dinara Safina after the Russian’s shock first round loss in the China Open last week, but has a slender five-point advantage in the rankings.