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World number one Henin announces retirement

LIMELETTE, May 14: Women’s world number one Justine Henin on Wednesday announced her retirement from competitive tennis, at a press conference in her native Belgium.

“I have decided to put an end to my tennis-playing career,” she said, confirming reports in the Belgian press that she was quitting the sport while still enjoying a firm lead at the top of the world rankings.

Henin, who will celebrate her 26th birthday on June 1, headed the official WTA rankings released on Monday for the 117th consecutive week, but pulled out of the Rome Masters this week blaming tiredness.

“It’s a big day in my life,” she said.

“I know that it’s a shock and a surprise for a lot of people but it’s a decision I have been thinking about it for some time,” she said, adding that the thought had first arisen late last year.

“It’s the end of a great adventure, the end of something I had dreamed of since I was five,” she said, close to tears, alongside long-time coach Carlos Rodriguez.

Henin, who has seven Grand Slam titles to her name and almost $20 million in career earnings since she joined the WTA Tour in 1999, has been struggling this year to reach the level of form that has earned her the last three titles at Roland Garros.

She admitted last week that she was lacking confidence just two weeks prior to French Open.

Henin has been beaten four times in four months in 2008 including a 6-2, 6-0 hammering by Serena Williams in Miami last month.

Her latest defeat and last appearance on court came last week’s against Russia’s Dinara Safina in German Open.