Four-times French Open champion Justine Henin overcame a broken finger and fired-up German opponent to win her opening match at Stuttgart on Wednesday, her first clay court tournament since her comeback.
The 27-year-old was taken to a tiebreak in the first set before breaking Julia Goerges’ resistance in the second for a 7-6 6-1 first-round win.
Henin, finalist in the Australian Open in January in only her second tournament back after a break of nearly two years, is gearing up for her first visit to her favourite venue at Roland Garros since her self-imposed exile from the game.
Her last appearance in Paris was in 2007 when she won her fourth title there.
The Belgian, a wild card for the event, battled through the match wearing a splint on her little left finger which she broke in training last week.
“The improvement is pretty good, even if my finger is not yet beautiful, it’s still really blue but the pain is a lot less and that’s a nice feeling,” Henin, who has already climbed to 24th in the rankings, told reporters.
“I have started to get used to the splint during the match so I felt better today.”
“It was a tough first set, she was on fire, serving pretty well and being pretty aggressive and you slide a lot on this court, when you’re on the defensive it’s not easy to come back onto the court.
“I was much more aggressive in the second set and I was more into the game, she had nothing to lose and went for everything.”
“I didn’t play for two years so I’m just trying to find the balance with my game,” said Henin who, among other things, took part in a reality show on Belgian television during her sabbatical.
“I need matches before the French Open, that’s for sure, everything I’ve done since the beginning of the season has been pretty good. I’m just trying to get used to my career again.”
“It’s good to play matches, that’s what I need, it’s good to be back.”
World number two Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark is top seed.
Agnieszka Radwanska (5) became the first seed to go out when she lost to Israel’s Shahar Peer, who won 6-3 6-7 6-2.
(Editing by Miles Evans; To query or comment on this story email@example.com)