Henin-Hardenne looks ahead to French Open

Justine Henin-Hardenne is the favourite in the women's tournament at the French Open.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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Roland Garros, Paris:

Justine Henin-Hardenne may be the favourite to lift the women's title at Roland Garros - which gets underway on Monday - but at the moment she isn't looking any further than a first round encounter against Spain's Conchita Martinez. The Belgian has been is superb form since her return from a long period out with a viral illness, and has recently won three clay-court tournaments in succession. Her compatriot Kim Clijsters, meanwhile, has confirmed that she will play at Roland Garros, having previously been a doubtful participant because of a knee injury. The Stade Roland Garros in Paris will come alive on Monday, as the year's second Grand Slam - the French Open - gets underway. Back in form Since returning to action in April following a long period on the sidelines with a viral illness, Justine Henin-Hardenne has had little trouble rediscovering something like her best form, winning three clay-court tournaments in succession ahead of the French Open. Henin-Hardenne says that Roland Garros will always hold special meaning for her. "I love Paris. I think it's such a beautiful city. I love to come here, not only for the French Open, but during the week, and get relaxed and walk in the streets. I love this city, and the French Open is very special for myself. It's a long story - it's the first Grand Slam I won, so it's always very special, and I feel something different when I come here," said Justine Henin-Hardenne. Henin-Hardenne is favourite with the bookmakers to lift the women's trophy at Roland Garros. Clijsters on a comeback Like compatriot Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters has also been in hugely impressive form since her recent return from long-term injury. The former world number one had been a doubtful starter for Roland Garros because of a knee injury sustained at the German Open a few weeks ago. But on Saturday she said she would definitely play in the tournament, despite not being at full fitness. "No I wouldn't say a hundred percent, but hopefully, I think I can, in the tournament, I can build up my game a little bit and I still have two days before my first game. So hopefully, I can just improve my game a little bit and feel a little bit more comfortable on the clay again," said Kim Clijsters. During her rehabilitation from injury, Clijsters watched on as the Russian assault on the women's game continued unabated. She says she's delighted to be back competing at the highest level, with a host of new rivals to face. "I definitely think what the Russian girls have done in the last couple of years has been incredible. They're all very steady, and they all play really well, and they're all great girls too. I'm great friends with lot of them, so it's good. But I'm very happy that Justine (Henin-Hardenne) and I are back up there as well, and trying to make it a little more tough for them, and it's good to be a part of the whole group again," said Kim Clijsters. Russian invasion Maria Sharapova is among the Russian contingent that Clijsters speaks of. She reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 2004, and, a year later, claims to be better equipped to cope with the physical demands of clay-court tennis. "I think I've been improving since last year, definitely. I physically feel like I can last longer on a court and I can play tougher, longer matches, and then come out the next day and play another match. So that's definitely a help when you're playing a Grand Slam for two weeks," said Maria Sharapova. Sharapova was ranked 15th in the world when she won her first Grand Slam last summer at Wimbledon. Now she is second in the world, and is targeting the number one spot. "It's just a matter of playing good tennis, and if you keep winning then you'll be number one. So I just have to make sure I just go out and perform well and not think about anything," said Maria Sharapova. The French Open gets underway at Roland Garros on Monday, and, weather permitting, will finish on the weekend of June 11th and 12th. (AP)