Henin granted Sydney wild card

Former world number one Justine Henin has received a wild card to the Medibank International Sydney, tournament organisers announced today.

The Belgian, who won seven Grand Slams and 41 titles overall before retiring at the top of her game in May last year, will join a top-class women's field which features nine of the world's top 10 players including Serena Williams, Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva and Australia's world number 13 Samantha Stosur in a tournament which runs from January 10-16.

Henin, who held the number one ranking for 117 weeks, announced her comeback to professional tennis in September after 15 months on the sidelines.

Her first tournament will be in Brisbane in the first week of January.

She was also granted one of four discretionary wild cards to the Australian Open at Melbourne Park next month.

"The women's draw is very impressive and it will be great to get some tough, competitive matches at the Medibank International Sydney before heading to Melbourne," said Henin, a three-time winner in Sydney in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Tournament director Craig Watson could not hide his delight to have the 27-year-old in the line-up.

"We are thrilled to have Justine returning to the Medibank International Sydney," Watson said.

"She has always been a very popular figure in Sydney and as a three-time champion of the event, she will certainly be a crowd favourite in January.

"To have a wild card of Justine's calibre and quality in the field is very exciting and I am sure most of the top women will be wary of coming up against her. She has a definite chance for a fourth title in Sydney."

Henin won the French Open on four occasions (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007), the US Open twice (2003, 2007) and the Australian Open in 2004.

She was also a finalist at Wimbledon in 2001 and 2006.

The Belgian has also won the year-ending Sony Ericsson Championships twice and the singles gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Most recently Henin played an exhibition event in Charleroi, defeating countrywoman Kristen Flipkens and world number 12 Flavia Pennetta. A week later Henin beat world number 20 Nadia Petrova in an exhibition match in Cairo.

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