The French Open dominance of Justine Henin

If Rafael Nadal is known as the ‘King of Clay’ then, for a period in the mid 2000s, Justine Henin was almost certainly the Queen. 

She won three straight titles from 2005, the only person to achieve that feat apart from Monica Seles in 1992. 

French Open 2005

The Belgian star came into the 2005 French Open without many matches under her belt due a fractured kneecap delaying her return from a series of niggling injuries.

She eventually made her comeback in March after six months out but the few matches she had played showed her layoff had not affected her, winning three clay tournaments claiming victories over Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Before her injury, Henin had been world No. 1 and was a Grand Slam champion after her triumph in Paris two years previously. 

She had added an Olympic Gold months before in Athens but had lost time to make up for at Roland Garros after her shock second round loss to Tathiana Garbin the year before.

After coming from a set down to battle past Anabel Medina Garrigues she met Kuznetsova in the fourth round where she won the deciding set 7-5. 

She then faced Sharapova, the second seed but outclassed her in straight sets and she reached the final after defeating Nadia Petrova, who had knocked her out of the US Open. 

Surprisingly she would meet Mary Pierce, the 21st seed, who had stunned top-ranked Lindsay Davenport in 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals. 

With neither player having dropped a set since the fourth round, a close encounter was expected but the Belgian thrashed her French counterpart for the loss of just two games to seal her second Slam. 

French Open 2006

By the time the 2006 French Open came around, Henin had risen to fifth in the world but had to pull out of her Australian Open final against Amelie Mauresmo through injury.

She eased through to the quarter-finals without dropping a set, including a 6-4, 6-0 thrashing of Garbin in the third round. 

Her run continued with a win over Anna-Lena Grönefeld to set up an-all Belgian semi-final with Kim Clijsters whom she had beaten in the 2003 final. 

This encounter was another comfortable win for Henin, this time 6-3, 6-2, as she looked to defend her title.

The final saw her meet eighth seed Kuznetsova, and the Belgian star became the first person to defend their French Open title since Steffi Graff in 1996. 

The remainder of the year saw Henin reach at third consecutive Slam final without dropping a set, at Wimbledon but lost to Mauresmo.

She then became the woman since Martina Hingis in 1997 to reach the finals of all four Grand Slam singles tournaments in a calendar year when she reached the US Open final but she lost to Maria Sharapova. 

However she would later beat the Russian and Mauresmo to win the year-end championships for the first time.

French Open 2007

Despite not competing in the first Slam of 2007 in Australia due to the break-up of her marriage, Henin regained the No. 1 ranking ahead of the French Open.

As expected she coasted through to a quarter-final against Serena Williams without losing a set and produced an accomplished performance to beat the eighth seed 6-4, 6-3. 

She then faced Serbian fourth seed Jelena Jankovic in the last four and dispatched her with ease for the loss of just four games. 

A third successive final at Roland Garros saw her pitted against Jankovic’s compariot Ana Ivanovic who was in her first Slam final but had already beaten third seed Svetlana Kuzneztova and second seed Maria Sharapova. 

Henin was on a mission though and eased past the 20-year-old 6-1, 6-2 to equal Monica Seles’ record of three successive titles. 

Unexpectedly, Henin retired the following year citing injuries, returning in 2010 but she failed to add to her seven Grand Slams before finally quitting the next year after injuries resurfaced. 

Main Photo: