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Tue 26 Feb 2008 02:45 AM

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Tennis ace Henin makes double recovery

Mind and body are both in good shape to defend Dubai Open title this week, she claims.

Justine Henin believes there are two reasons why she is in better shape to defend her Dubai Open title this week than while trying to win back the Australian Open title in Melbourne last month.

Henin reckons it was "a big mistake" for her to have played in the first Grand Slam of the year, claiming her knee injury had not fully recovered and that this left her with a post-tournament legacy of pain.

Another important factor has been her psychological improvement, aided by her continuing coming to terms with the prolonged emotional aftermath of a rapprochement with her family.

This took another step forward with her father coming to watch her play and win the title at the Diamond Proximus Games at Antwerp the week before last - the first time he had done so since before the family bust-up more than seven years ago.

"Perhaps I didn't have time to come down enough after what happened in 2007," said Henin. "It was quite a short time to recover. Mentally and physically I was quite tired. And I had another injury.

"Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying this is the reason why I lost in Australia: Maria (Sharapova) was the best player. But it has been difficult for me to deal with in the last few weeks.

"We have all grown up after what happened to us. It's not easy. It's been like that and it's not easy. But we have no regrets. What happened happened.

"Now we can live together. What happened in these seven years happened and we have to respect that, and there is a lot of respect.

"When I came back from Australia I spent a lot of time with them (my family). They are together in my life which is a good feeling.

"My father was at the final in Belgium in the box with all the other ones. It's another step. What happened is in the past. We all grow up a lot in that experience."

Henin is also pleased to have recovered from the knee problem through which she played in Australia but which required her to stop for three weeks after it was over.

During this time she was having cortizone regularly, and feels that has done the trick. Asked how the injury occurred, she said: "It's a chronic problem with the knee and it may come back.

"I have to pay attention to this. The schedule is difficult and we are quite busy. If I want to stay on a few more years I know I have to be more careful.

"I should not have played in the Australian Open because of my knee and it was a big mistake because if after that it's a few weeks with the pain. It's not easy mentally either.

"I was already feeling a bit injured when I left for Australia. But that's not the main reason I lost".

Henin has a bye but then could find herself with an unusually difficult opening encounter on Wednesday against Nadia Petrova, the former world number three from Russia.

Her first seeded opponent should be Marion Bartoli, the Wimbledon runner-up from France, and in theory she should go on to have a semi-final with Ana Ivanovic, the Australian runner-up from Serbia.

However Ivanovic is still trying to recover from the ankle injury sustained during her only match in Doha, during an unfortunate start to her first tier one tournament as number one seed.

Ivanovic practised for the first time since the mishap five days previously and pronounced herself as "50-50" to compete this week.

Maria Sharapova, the Australian Open champion and last week's winner in Doha, is arguably the best player in the world on current form, but is nevertheless seeded down at number five. This has made her quarter-final draw more crucial.

Sharapova could have a second round with Amelie Mauresmo, the former world number one from France, and if she comes through that, a quarter-final with the second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former US Open champion from Russia.

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