Tennis is a lonely game. It is one of the most gladiatorial sports: one versus one with no team mates to offer support. There is no hiding place on court and those who reach the highest level require a great deal of character to go with their rare talents.
No one can accuse Justine Henin of lacking inner strength; seven grand slam titles and 41 WTA victories were earned through hard work and an ability to handle pressure, alongside of course her devastating one-handed backhand.
And yet she walks away from the game at her supposed peak, 25 years old and on top of the world rankings. This is not due to any mental failings but rather a realization that there is more to life than tennis. Individual sports require more motivation to excel in than team events - a coach can help guide a player but only the individual can summon the desire to continue on the treadmill of the tour, staying away from home for long periods. It is a lonely place off the court as well as on it.
Henin has had some well-publicised personal issues and she no doubt wants to spend more time with her reunited family and pursuing other interests. Hers is a premature retirement, although it should be remembered that she turned professional in 1999. Women players often have pro careers mapped out for them from an early age - usually in a pressurised and intense parental environment - so these seemingly short careers must appear long to the players themselves.