Justine Henin has a dream that today she will stand on Centre Court, hold the famous Venus Rosewater dish up to the skies, and fulfil a promise she made to her mother almost a decade ago.
Sitting in the grandstand at Roland Garros, watching Monica Seles sweep to her third successive French Open triumph against Steffi Graf, the 10-year-old Henin turned to her mother Françoise and said: "One day you'll see me playing like this on Centre Court".
Two years later, on 26 March 1995, her mother died from intestinal cancer. But somewhere amid the sense of loss, Henin resolved to work harder to fulfil that prophecy. "I always said it would be the end of my life if she died, but when she did, I learned to deal with it and continued playing tennis for myself," Henin said.
"Today I still remember the good moments but there isn't a single day goes by that I don't think of her. I am sure that up there she is proud of me, seeing that I am realising my dream. I also learned to see things in a different way. When things are not going well, when I miss easy balls or lose matches, I tell myself that all that is not really important."
Her mother's pride will be represented in the Centre Court players' box today by Carlos Rodriguez, whom the young Belgian met at a tennis school in Mons in 1996, and who has masterminded her rise to prominence. She is not expecting to be watched by her father, Jose, with whom she has a strained professional relationship, or the two brothers and younger sister for whom she assumed responsibility following her mother's passing.
"I know my mother is quite aware of what I am doing now," she said. "She knew my ambitions. She knew my character. She knew that I really wanted to win. And she was convinced that I would succeed."Reuse content