“There are concerns about the future of my career,” says 28-year-old Henin.

Justine Henin returns to competition in the Hopman Cup team event on Saturday but she may not be fully fit for six months. Henin, who last played a major event at Wimbledon in June, said her elbow will be assessed during the Australian Open, which starts on 17 January. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.”

The Belgian, who returned to tennis at the beginning of 2010 after 18 months in retirement, suffered a partially ruptured ligament in her right elbow after falling at Wimbledon during a fourth-round defeat to Kim Clijsters. “I am realistic, it is my comeback, it has been a difficult year,” said the seven-times Grand Slam winner. “I started the season pretty well but then physically it has been pretty difficult. It hasn’t been an easy comeback and a serious injury like that just six months after I came back was the worst for me.”

At the Hopman Cup she will be guaranteed three singles and three doubles matches before the first Grand Slam of the year begins in Melbourne. Last year Henin made a triumphant return to reach the final of the Australian Open before losing to Serena Williams. The powerful American will be absent through a troublesome foot injury this year, but Henin insists she should not be regarded as one of the main contenders for the title. “No-one is dominating women’s tennis – there are a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “Serena is not going to be there so it is going to be wide open, but I don’t consider myself one of the biggest favourites.”


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