Now that former World No. 1 Justine Henin- the first Belgian tennis player to be inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame- has exchanged her tennis racket for a microphone, who better to comment on the progress of fellow Belgians David Goffin (ATP 11), Elise Mertens (WTA 17) and the return of Kim Clijsters.
Here’s a recap of the Belgian pro’s opinion on the state of the game in 2020:
“David and Elise are now carrying Belgian tennis, at a very high level. It’s true that we set the bar very high, with Kim (Clijsters) a few years ago,” Henin told Belga.
“David already has [gotten to] an exceptional level in male tennis. He has shown that he can advance and I’m seeing it more and more. From that to going after the big titles, to reaching for the Top 5, it’s more complicated.”
Goffin, who beat France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday, will meet Russia’s Andrey Rublev (ATP 16) in the third round of the grand slam tournament on Saturday.
“Elise, for her part, is no longer in the same carefree phase as two years ago, where she could create upsets,” Henin continues. “She has reached a stable stage in her career, but to go beyond that, you have to be able to take risks, to dare, to push back one’s boundaries.”
Mertens, who has won five singles and nine doubles titles in the WTA Tour, including the US Open in 2019, will face America’s “CiCi” Bellis in the third round of the tournament in Melbourne on Saturday.
The return of Kim Clijsters
Naturally, there is no way the former world champion could fail to mention the second comeback by Kim Clijsters, who, at age 36, will stage her grand return to the circuit at the Monterrey WTA tournament, seven years after saying goodbye at the U.S. Open in 2012.
“I myself was surprised since a long time has passed,” says Henin. “I imagine she must miss the tours and the love of tennis, and she has a right to do so. After that, it all depends on what she can come up with against Barty, Osaka, Pliskova and so on.”
“There’s a quality of ball handling that Kim will never lose, but the explosiveness and the ability to hold on to the distance will be something else,” she added.
While there are some whispers surfacing that Clijsters will stage an earlier return to the tour,
The Monterrey Open will take place in the heart of Mexico from 30 March to 7 April. After Monterrey, Clijsters plans to play in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, a tournament she won twice, followed by South Carolina’s Volvo Car Open- her first clay-court tournament since 2011.
Jules Johnston and Evie McCullough
The Brussels Times