Henin says she can be better than before

Former world No.1 Justine Henin says she has matured during her

20-month break from tennis and can be a better player when she

makes a return to the sport next week.

Henin, 27, told a news conference Tuesday she “grew up” during

her absence from the court and can eclipse the standard she set in

winning seven Grand Slam titles.

The Belgian will play in next week’s Brisbane International and

the subsequent Sydney International before contesting the Jan.

18-31 Australian Open as a wild card.

While keeping expectations in check, she said a second

Australian Open title was “possible.”

“I believe I can be a better player, I believe I can use my

experience more than in the past,” Henin said. “When you are into

(playing tennis at) 200 percent you have no time to realize it. You

are too involved all the time and all this time off helped me to

realize everything I achieved.

Henin said her absence from tennis has given her personal

insight and perspective, adding that she didn’t watch a set of

tennis in the first 12 months after retirement and now returns to

the sport refreshed and self-aware.

“What I can say is I know myself much better and that’s the most

important thing,” she said.

Henin appeared more relaxed at Tuesday’s news conference than in

the past, when she was often perceived as aloof.

“I’m 27 now I just want to live my second career differently to

how I did in the past,” she said. “It’s been a great experience to

go out of the tennis world for 18 months and to come back because I

feel I grew up.”

Henin, who won the 2004 Australian Open, will use the Brisbane

International to find her tournament rhythm. She showed early form,

and a stronger serve, when she beat Russia’s Nadia Petrova in an

exhibition in Cairo earlier this month.

“Of course I will need some time to be 100 percent, to be the

level I was when I stopped my career, but I’m ready to live

anything here,” she said.