PARIS — Justine Henin was 10 years old on her first visit to Roland Garros with her mother Francoise. They made the three-hour journey from Rochefort, Belgium for the 1992 women’s final between Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

Henin adored Graf’s game, but Seles would win her third straight French Open crown that day. Sitting at Court Philippe Chatrier, Henin was filled with wonder. She told her mother, as a bold child will, that she would come back one day and win the title.

Francoise died two years later, and that promise drove Henin to keep it.

“So when I won my first Roland Garros 11 years later,” Henin said, “it was something very special because the dream came true.”

That was 2003. Two years later, the player with the stylish one-hand backhand embarked on a three-year run of perfection, winning titles here from 2005-07.

Henin’s single word afterward describing that feeling: surreal.

Roland Garros: Scores | Draws

And, in a wonderful turn of events, the last time a three-peat had been achieved, Henin watched from the stands as Seles hoisted the trophy.

The sublime, back-to-the-future irony? On Saturday (3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET) Iga Swiatek will be playing for her third straight title. Henin, working for French television, will be here, too.

Here’s a look back at Henin’s mastery at Roland Garros:

2003: The beginning of a dominant reign

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There were early signs that Henin was destined to become a legitimate player. As a teenager, she had advanced to the semifinals at Roland Garros and the final at Wimbledon in 2001. Then, in a fortnight that saw her turn 21, Henin raced to her first Grand Slam singles title.

Her first three matches went quickly, in straight sets, but Patty Schnyder provided some resistance, falling 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the fourth round. Chanda Rubin was another straight-sets victim in the quarterfinals before a controversial semifinal meeting with Serena Williams.

They had met earlier in the year in Charleston, with Henin prevailing with a relatively comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win. This one was anything but. It would come to be known as “The Hand Match.”

With Serena serving at 4-2, 30-love in the third set, she saw Henin briefly raise her left hand to quiet the whistles of the crowd. Serena, distracted, missed her serve and complained to chair umpire Jorge Dias, but he hadn’t seen the gesture. When he looked to Henin, she did not acknowledge it. That unsettled Williams and she would go on to lose five of the last six games, falling 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

The final, against Kim Clijsters, was an anticlimactic 6-0, 6-4 match. It was the first major title for Henin — and the first for a Belgian.

“You have to take it all in, be in the moment,” Henin said later. “You can never truly enjoy it to the full because I was very young. Yes, it’s me, but at the same time it’s not me. That’s what’s so magnificent about that moment.”

2005: Taking down a home favorite

As the top seed in 2004, Henin was upset by Tathiana Garbin in the second round. Injuries set her back at the outset of 2005. She didn’t start playing until March and entered Roland Garros as only the No.10 seed. Twice, against Conchita Martinez and Anabel Medina Garrigues, she was extended to three sets.

The three-peat never would have happened if Henin hadn’t emerged from a seriously compromised position in the fourth round. Down 5-3 in the third set to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Henin fought off two match points and went on to win 7-6 (6), 4-6, 7-5. The match required 3 hours and 15 minutes and was easily the sternest test of the fortnight.

“I feel like the match was in my hands, I had so many chances,” Kuznetsova said afterward. “I guess maybe her experience showed in the end. It was tough, she didn’t miss.”

Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova were straight-sets victims in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but Mary Pierce — the 2000 champion — loomed in the final. Born in Canada to a French mother and an American father, Pierce represented France in international play and enjoyed significant crowd support.

Henin, who was destined to win all four of her finals at Roland Garros, was a 6-1, 6-1 winner.

“Maybe you needed this kind of match I won against Kuznetsova,” Henin told Pierce at the trophy ceremony. “It’s been tough, a little lucky, but it was the turning point of the tournament, because after that I’ve been very calm and quiet on the court for the first time.”

2006: A flawless two weeks of tennis

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Back in the Top 10 at the start of the year, Henin won the title and advanced to the Australian Open final before losing to Amelie Mauresmo. It was her first loss in a dozen matches, and she entered Roland Garros as the No.5 seed.

Maret Ani, Anastasiya Yakimova, Garbin and 2004 champion Anastasia Myskina could only muster 19 games between them in the first four rounds. Anna-Lena Groenefeld and the No.2-seeded Clijsters also departed in straight sets.

It seemed appropriate that Henin’s opponent in the finals was Kuznetsova. The result, however, was the same. Henin was a 6-4, 6-4, winner and had successfully defended her title. She was the first woman to win Roland Garros without dropping a set since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1994.

She became the first woman to win consecutive French Open titles since Graf (1995-96) and the first to win three in four years since Graf 1993-96.

“The first win was special, obviously,” Henin said. “Three is a lot. I’m joining great champions like Steffi Graf or Arantxa Sanchez. I’m very happy.”

2007: The rare three-peat complete


For the first time in this three-year set, Henin came in as the World No.1 and the heavy favorite. She had won 20 0f 22 matches, losing only to Serena Williams in the Miami final and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Berlin championship match.

Doubtless feeling the pressure of the moment, Henin managed to play without nerves, winning her first six matches in straight sets. The last two, over Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, were particularly impressive.

Ana Ivanovic, who would go on to take the title the following year, was the opposition in the final — and she provided little of it. Pumping her fist after almost every point, Henin was a 6-1, 6-2 winner in a scant 65 minutes. She finished the tournament with only 38 dropped games, one fewer than the year before.

Thus, Henin joined Seles as the only other Open Era woman to win three consecutive titles at Roland Garros, and the third overall since 1937. She was the first two win two French Opens without dropping a set.

It was Pierce who handed Henin the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

“It’s surreal to win for the third time in a row,” Henin said. “I am struggling to take it in.”

After retiring, then returning to the game, Henin reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2010 — running her consecutive sets won total to a tournament-record 40. Her final record was 38-5 (.884).

Four of her career seven major titles came in Paris.


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