Fifteen years ago, Justine Henin opened her academy in Belgium. Winner of seven Grand Slams during her career, she shares her experience with future champions. Starting this year, his academy is linked to the BNP Paribas Young Talents Team to help young people reach the top level. Overview of the current state of women’s tennis with the Belgian who explains the importance of transmitting to young players.
Justine, who will win this Roland-Garros in men and women?
Here is the magic of Rafa, his love. There are outsiders, the truth on the ground. We can comment on all this, we try to analyze but there is the intimacy of the player, in what form of the day he is, how he will manage the event, his moment. It is the truth on the ground that cannot be commented on. Among the girls, Iga Swiatek is the big favorite, world number one supposed for a few weeks. On the mud, it is an ideal surface for her, she has time to impose her game, this is where she has to shine, where she can shine several times.
What is your current vision for women’s tennis?
Women’s tennis has a constantly changing hierarchy. It gives an interesting side but prevents identification. This is the problem with the popularity of women’s tennis. We see good matches, of a good level but we need more consistency, rivalries. I hope Iga Swiatek gets her hands on this women’s circuit. Women’s tennis needs it. And that real rivalries can be built, it can also take a while, we are faced with generational questions. We remain positive and optimistic about the future.
Precisely, does Iga Swiatek impress you?
She impresses me a lot. Keep in mind that winning so many games is a daily challenge. She knows this streak can end. I experienced it in 2007, with 32 wins, others have experienced much more important series. The ones who constantly win are the ones who are able to challenge each other week after week. Iga is a great worker. Although she has not been able to go to a Grand Slam since Roland Garros 2020, she has been one of the most consistent and stable players. He has many weapons to last and become the leader of the circuit.
Why, here in Roland, does any player manage to defend his title?
It is a special surface for players. Most of the season is played on hard courts. Therefore, we see this phenomenon less in men, with real styles of clay, a capacity for adaptation quite large. We have very few girls who actually play in the mud or adapt their play to the mud, which creates a lot of openness and often upsets the hierarchy. We have a denser and more homogeneous women’s tennis among the top 100. But we have a consistency issue. Many girls can win and this gives ideas and many girls say that it is possible, we believe in our luck, without having to do it every week. There is less level difference, with a high density of players. With applications, social media, lots of things to manage outside, you have to find your balance. Iga Swiatek seems to be handling everything very well. Ashley Barty had that ability. And we hope Naomi Osaka finds well-being and pleasure playing and looking forward to doing more.
Do you have the task of finding the next, or the next, Belgian winner of Roland-Garros?
We can’t work miracles, we’re working on it. The federation and the Justine Henin Academy are working on it. We must be together. The goal is for French, Belgian and world tennis to be doing well. Being able to share our values with young people, where they are still listening, is important. They are the engine of their own project. Desire must come from them and we support them and provide them with resources.
Is transmission important?
I really have it in me, in the projects I choose or in the activities I do. There is this desire to convey and also to give back the opportunity I had. I received the support of many actors. Without them I would not have been able to do what I did. Support, I had a lot. I think all this needs to be returned. And I like being with young people. There is this neglect, the desire to discover, to learn. It is true that it is something that excites me a lot, to be able to share this experience, if they want. A great pleasure to share.
Belgium joins BNP Paribas Young Talents team, missed?
Yes, I am very moved by the confidence of BNP Paribas, to implement this program within the academy, to collaborate with us. We know that training young players is expensive. We believe that there is a heart to move the lines, to help young people live their dream, their passion. So that structures like ours can support more young people, this is a great opportunity for us. And seeing these young people together, sharing things, being with sponsors is still inspiring and can allow them to dream of Roland-Garros someday.