Justine Henin has shocked the tennis world by retiring from the sport for a second time in her career.
The 28-year-old seven-time Grand Slam champion announced her retirement on her official website yesterday, a serious right elbow injury cutting short the 'second career' she embarked on this time last year.
Addressing her fans in an emotional letter, Henin explained that following extensive medical tests doctors had advised her to stop playing professionally.
"I spent the last days undergoing various medical tests and they have confirmed that my elbow has been damaged by my adventure in Australia," she wrote, saying she had suffered a great deal of pain since crashing out in the third round of Australian Open 2011 to Svetlana Kuznetsova, but had believed her will power would carry her through.
"Today the examinations are clearly (sic) and the doctors formally my elbow is too fragile and hurt so that my passion and my profession at high level cannot continue to exist...It is now clear and I accept that my career here...finally ends. Even though it's hard, very hard, while I came back with tremendous fighting spirit."
With 43 WTA Tour titles, Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open, French and US Opens, and an Olympic Gold Medal to her name, Henin is one of the most successful female tennis players - and athletes - of all time. She injured her elbow in a fall during her fourth round loss to compatriot Kim Clijsters in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
The Belgian first retired on May 14, 2008 when ranked No.1 in the world, her long-time coach Carlos Rodriguez explaining: "Tennis became more than just winning for Justine and just winning wasn't enough for her anymore."
This time retirement was out of the famously strong-willed players hands. "After my crash at Wimbledon in June, I knew it would be difficult to come back. But I had decided to keep playing and to give everything to overcome the injury," wrote Henin on justine-henin.be.
"In these recent months I have rarely been spared from the pain, those last months were very hard. Time has passed and the doubts have grown and only return to the courts would give me answers. Not the answer I was hoping for...unfortunately.
"I'm in shock, of course, even with the work of these past seven months I had to understand there might be a reason for all this...I'm sorry...I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending.
Thanks for standing by my side during all these years. I will never forget your support and your loyalty."
WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster paid tribute to Henin's career saying: "We have all been fortunate to once again have had the opportunity to witness the beauty of her game during these many past months, and no doubt we will miss seeing her on court competing like only Justine can. Justine Henin will go down as one of the greatest female athletes of her era."
Well, what can you say I sort of said it all the first time she retired back in May of '08. Except this time it seems even sadder, because it really looks to be for good.
Ending it in the worst possible way too, ending it on your own terms is always better then being forced to do so due to an injury.
Goodbye Justine, thanks for all the craftsmanship and excitement you brought to tennis over the years. Good luck in whatever endeavours you wish to undertake, the tennis world will undoubtedly miss you.
You can read the entire letter Justine wrote to her fans on her official website.