Justine Henin Hardenne
Biography and lessons of a Belgian champion

justine henin photo
Justine Henin Hardenne was born on June 1st, 1982, during the French Open tournament. Her passion for tennis was evident at the very early age. At 5 years old she would spend hours hitting the ball on the near by courts at the Tennis Club Rochefort.

She changed a few clubs and coaches at her early years including training at the French Tennis Federation. Justine finally finds the coach ideal for her playing style – Carlos Rodriguez at the age of 14. Carlos is hugely responsible for the success of Justine Henin Hardenne throughout her career.

As with most of tennis mental winners so was Justine successful at the juniors tour. She won her first ITF tournaments at the age of 15 years and at the age of 16 she won another three titles and was ranked nr. 226 in the WTA ranking.

What can you learn?

The road to success starts with your passion. It becomes your obsession but in a positive sense. You know what you want and it may take a while before life gives you a perfect chance to go to the next level. Once Justine Henin found Carlos Rodriguez she never looked back.

Justine turned pro in 1999 and became only the fifth player to win her debut Tour tournament against Sarah Pitkowski. She also met her future husband Pierre Yves Hardenne whom she married in 2002.

The year 2000 was sort of mixed one with some successes but also injuries and illnesses which slowed down Justine's progress. But Justine is known for her perseverance and she learned from the mistakes of that year. In 2001 she finished the year ranked nr.7 as a result of reaching semifinals of French Open and finals of Wimbledon.

She continued her ascent in 2002 by winning against top ranked players like Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati. She suffered a tough loss at one of the finals that year against Venus Williams where she lead 6:2, 4:0 and 40:15 and eventually lost the match 7:5 in the third set.

What can you learn?

What would you think of yourself if you lost a match from 6:2, 4:0 and 40:15? Would you think that you are a bad player or not mentally tough? Every top player has experienced losses like this at some point in their career.

You can learn from them if you somehow contributed to the loss by playing too safe or with fear based decisions. But you cannot control the score and this might happen again if you do your best. That is the nature of the sport. Accepting that and moving on is the best way to overcome these challenges.

Justine Henin Hardenne picture
Justine Henin did exactly that and she totally dominated the WTA in 2003. Here are some of the highlights of that year:

Remember that loss against Venus in 2002?

Justine showed incredible mental toughness and determination by saving match points and big deficits in sets against Capriati, Seles, Davenport, Clijsters and Myskina – all top players who know how to finish the match.

What can you learn?

After you have done your hard work you will get your chance. But you'll still have to work 100% to make it happen. Justine Henin played excellent tennis in 2003 and yet she was down match point many times. She could have lost those matches and never become a Grand Slam champion. But the chance was there and she took it.

The season of 2004 started the same way as the 2003 ended – Justine Henin won Sydney, Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells titles before she got infected with a cytomegalovirus. She did play French Open but lost in the second round. Justine decided to take some time to heal and prepared for the Olympic Games in Athens which she won.

She also played US Open but lost in the fourth round. Justine realized that the virus is more serious than she thought and she skipped the remaining 10 tournaments in 2004 to be able to completely recover from this illness.

What can you learn?

Sometimes life takes you in another direction and resisting that could make things even worse. Justine Henin undoubtedly wanted to compete and play but she decided that tennis will take second priority behind health.

She also found out how she appreciates the tennis game and her abilities when she couldn't play the game. We often don't know what we have until we lose it…

Justine made her comeback in March 2005, lost her tournament in quarter finals but the quickly found the winning form and won Charleston, Warsaw, Berlin Open and finally French Open against Mary Pierce.

But again there is no perfection in tennis and people – she lost the first round of Wimbledon to Eleni Danilidou and became the first ever reigning French Open Champion to lose in the first round of Wimbledon.

What can you learn?

When you are giving your best you will improve in the long term. But short term you will face many obstacles and failures. They are there only to test you. Are you really determined? Can you overcome this and continue on your path? Will this instill doubt in you or do you still believe in yourself?

An interesting fact of 2005 is that in November at the 2005 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships she received an award of the "Whirlpool 6th Sense Player of the Year". This honors the players who demonstrated the highest intuition when playing matches.

Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia
If you are more interested in learning how you can use intuition combined with tennis laws and tactical guidelines, then don’t miss Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia.

Chapter 8 is titled "Statistics and Intuition" and explains how you can learn basic, advanced and expert tennis tactics and still be unpredictable to your opponent by using intuition at the right moment in the game.

If you just play by playing typical tactical plays your opponent can quickly predict what you are about to play. Intuition gives you tactical solutions that may seem wrong choice in the long term but if you execute them trusting in yourself they will work most of the times.

justine henin pic
And just a quick recap of 2006; Justine Henin played a somewhat controversial match in the finals on Australian Open against Amelie Mauresmo where she retired in the final citing gastrointestinal illness.

She had good success in February where she won Dubai again, lost in Indian Wells in SF and in Miami in the first round, lost in the SF of Charleston, runner up in Berlin, won her third French Open title without losing a set, won Eastbourne and lost in the finals of Wimbledon in an excellent match against Amelie Mauresmo.

She continued with good results but lost again in the finals of US Open against Kim Clijsters who finally won her first Grand Slam title. One more final loss happed to Justine Henin when her team Belguim lost in the finals of Fed Cup against Italy.


Justine Henin just won the final of the WTA Championships against Amelie Mauresmo with 6:4, 6:3 score and she will end the year 2006 as the nr.1 ranked female player in the world.

All the best Justine and I’m sure I’ll have to update this page with more of her successes in the future…



Win More Matches When It Matters Most

Most tennis matches are decided not by a better stroke but by a better tactical play and by a stronger mind.

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