SYDNEY - Belgium's Justine Henin made a triumphant return to professional tennis with a 7-5 7-5 win over Russia's Nadia Petrova in the Brisbane International first round yesterday.
Playing her first official match in 20 months, the 27-year-old showed she had lost none of her fighting qualities as she worked at a hard-fought victory.
Henin quit tennis in May 2008 when she was ranked world No 1 but announced last year that she was making a comeback.
She has been training for five months in preparation for the Australian Open, starting on January 18, and sent a warning that she is deadly serious about getting back to the top.
"I have been waiting for this moment for so long. I am so happy about what I did on the court," she told reporters.
"It's only the beginning and I feel better today than I did when I retired, both emotionally and mentally."
Petrova was impressed by her opponent.
"Henin is playing better tennis than before she retired. It is good news that she is back," she said.
Defending men's champion Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic beat Australian John Millman 6-4 6-0, while Frenchman Richard Gasquet buried some of his own demons by defeating Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 4-6 6-4. Gasquet was cleared last year of a positive cocaine test he said was the result of kissing a woman in a nightclub.
Serbia's Ana Ivanovic registered her first win in almost five months by beating Australia's Jelena Dokic 7-5 1-6 6-3 on centre court. - Reuters