Henin unfazed by Federer comparisons

ZURICH, Oct 16 (Reuters) Women's world number one Justine Henin shrugged off comparisons to male counterpart Roger Federer today and said she was giving little thought to her place in sporting history.

Speaking to reporters on a free day after receiving a bye into the second round of the Zurich Open, the Belgian added that the defence of her 2004 Olympic title would be one of her main goals for 2008.

''It's an honour to hear those kind of compliments,'' Henin said when asked about the sporting comparisons being made between her and Federer.

''But I never like to compare myself to anyone because I just like to do my job the best I can. I do it for myself, the people I love, my fans -- but I don't really run after being part of the history of the sport.'' Henin, 25, has dominated the women's tour this year despite a turbulent off-court season that has included a split from her husband and a reunion with her previously estranged family.

Since skipping the Australian Open following the breakdown of her marriage, the Belgian has gone on to win eight titles so far this season, adding the 2007 French and US Open titles to her total haul of seven Grand Slams.

UNBEATEN RUN She also reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon -- the only Grand Slam title still to elude her -- and is unbeaten in 16 matches since then.

''I've been dominating the sport for the last few months, that's for sure but it's hard to stay at your top all the time,'' Henin said on Tuesday.

''I've been playing tennis for 20 years and giving everything for it, so I'm not going to stop now because I still have the feeling that there is a lot I want to do.'' Unlike Federer, who is just two trophies away from equalling Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, Henin knows that the corresponding record in the women's game is probably far beyond even her agile reach.

Australia's Margaret Smith Court leads the way with a seemingly unassailable 24 Grand Slam singles title, 11 of which were won in the Open era.

More recently, Steffi Graf accumulated 22 Grand Slam singles titles with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova each collecting 18.

''When you see what the greatest girls in the sport, like Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, have achieved then you have to think that nobody is going to do that again in the women's game,'' Henin said.

GOLDEN SLAM ''It's a great feeling to be winning a lot of Grand Slams but my motivation is just that I love so much being on the court and competing at the highest level.'' One achievement that Henin could still match is the ''Golden Slam'' requiring a player to win all four Grand Slams and the Olympic gold medal.

To do that in one year, as Graf did in 1988, Henin will have to defend her 2004 Olympic gold at next year's Beijing Olympics and finally add the Wimbledon title to her long list of victories.

''That's a tough, tough goal, so let's go one step at a time,'' grinned Henin. ''I will definitely be at the Olympic Games which is one of my main goals for sure. My win in Athens was the most beautiful experience of my career.

''As for Wimbledon, I will do everything I can to win there.

For a little girl who dreamed of winning Grand Slams it would be a great achievement if I could win the lot.

''But if I don't do it, I won't feel any less of a champion because there are a lot of great players who never managed to win all four.'' REUTERS BJR RAI2126

Story first published: Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 13:00 [IST]
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