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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Henin quits tennis for second time over elbow

Posted: 26 Jan 2011 08:23 PM PST

Henin wears an elbow brace during a match at the Australian Open, Melbourne January 21, 2011. — Reuters pic

BRUSSELS, Jan 27 — Former world number one Justine Henin has quit tennis, for a second time, after doctors advised her to end her career due to an injured elbow.

Henin, 28 and the winner of seven grand slams, became the first woman player to retire while ranked number one in the world in May 2008 but returned early last year.

She reached the Australian Open final only weeks after her 2010 comeback, losing to American rival Serena Williams, but this year in Melbourne she suffered a painful exit against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round.

"I have unfortunately not good news," Henin, who won 43 titles and US$20 million (RM62 million) in prize money, said on her website yesterday after her spokeswoman confirmed she was quitting.

"I spent the last days undergoing various medical tests and they have confirmed that my elbow has been damaged by my adventure in Australia.

"After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, 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 a tremendous fighting spirit."

Henin's classical style and finesse will be missed on the women's tour and WTA chief Stacey Allaster was quick to praise her contribution to the sport.

"Justine Henin will go down as one of the greatest female athletes of her era," Allaster said in a statement.

"She has been an incredible ambassador for women's tennis on and off the court, and her fighting spirit, tremendous courage and ultimate success has captured the minds and hearts of millions of fans around the world.

"We have all been fortunate to once again have had the opportunity to witness the beauty of her game and no doubt we will miss seeing her on court competing like only Justine can."

Henin's right elbow injury can be traced back to last year's Wimbledon, the only grand slam to elude her, when she damaged tendons in a fourth round loss to fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.

She missed the rest of the season and though she returned this year she could not practise without pain and she was a shadow of her former self in Melbourne despite three wins.

In a letter released by her spokeswoman, her Belgian surgeon explained that Henin would have needed major reconstructive surgery and a rehabilitation period of up to a year, with no guarantee of a return to the game.

When Henin unleashed what former men's great John McEnroe once described as the "best backhand in tennis" back on the women's tour at the start of last year her return was widely welcomed and she was expected to add to her grand slam haul.

The diminutive player with a dashing one-handed style was hailed as an artist of the court, beating opponents with beguiling angles and spins rather than pure brute force.

She could mix it in the power stakes too, however, and despite being dwarfed by the army of six-footers that inhabit the women's game, she never ducked a baseline scrap.

After winning a claycourt title in Stuttgart last April, the first of two she managed in her year-long return, she was tipped to add to her four Roland Garros later in the year.

However, on a court that witnessed some of the most magical moments of her career, she lost to Australia's Samantha Stosur in the fourth round. Henin's final crack at Wimbledon was ended by Clijsters whose own retirement U-turn has ultimately eclipsed that of her great rival.

While Clijsters closes in on the Australian Open title, Henin departs the sport, almost certainly for good, and few would disagree that it will be the poorer for her absence. — Reuters

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Contador banned a year over doping test

Posted: 26 Jan 2011 05:06 PM PST

Contador previously threatened to quit the sport if penalised. — Reuters pic

MADRID, Jan 27 — The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) has decided to suspend Tour de France champion Alberto Contador for one year over his failed doping test in last year's race.

"Alberto Contador has received today a notification of a one-year ban proposal by the competition committee of the Spanish federation," said a statement released by the rider's spokesman Jacinto Vidarte yesterday.

Contador, who has threatened to end his career if he is punished, has 10 days to appeal the preliminary ruling before the RFEC makes a final decision.

The 28-year-old will hold a news conference tomorrow at 1500 GMT in Mallorca where he is training with his Saxo Bank team, Vidarte added.

He made no mention of whether the federation had also decided to strip the Spaniard of the 2010 Tour title.

Contador has been provisionally suspended since August after it emerged he had tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during his third Tour de France win.

He has denied deliberate wrongdoing, saying the failed test was due to contaminated meat.

Even if he accepts the federation's decision he may not be able to put the controversy behind him right away since the UCI, cycling's world governing body, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) could challenge the ban.

The UCI, rocked by several high profile doping scandals in recent years, may appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if it feels the RFEC has been too lenient.

Contador could also take his case to the CAS, sport's final court of appeal.

One of only five men with titles in all three grand Tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour of Spain and Tour de France), Contador told Spanish radio from Mallorca earlier yesterday that he was "motivated and focussed on his work."

"Right now the most important thing is to remove yourself a bit from everything that is going on around you and focus on working, which is what can bear fruit in the future," he said.

Saxo Bank said last year they would stay in the sport even if Contador was banned.

He won the 2010 Tour de France by 39 seconds from Luxembourg's Andy Schleck who will be regarded as the hot favourite for this year's race should Contador miss the event.

UCI chief Pat McQuaid said earlier this month Contador was likely to miss the Tour because the rider would be suspended or due to the fact he would not be fit in time.

In recent years the sport has been tarnished by a string of high profile doping cases including 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis and 2006 champion Floyd Landis.

Seven-times Tour champion Lance Armstrong is also the focus of a federal investigation in the US after Landis last year alleged the 39-year-old Texan and other prominent figures in the sport had doped.

Armstrong has always denied doping. — Reuters

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