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Rediff.com  » Sports » Belgium captain urges Henin to play Fed Cup final

Belgium captain urges Henin to play Fed Cup final

July 20, 2006 17:08 IST
Belgium's Fed Cup captain Carl Maes has urged Justine Henin-Hardenne to play in September's final against Italy after her coach cast doubt over her participation.

The French Open champion's decision to pull out of last weekend's semi-final tie against the United States, because of exhaustion, has sparked a row between the Henin-Hardenne camp and the country's tennis federation.

Henin-Hardenne, who has suffered from an energy-sapping virus in the past, chose to sit out the tie after contesting the French Open and Wimbledon finals within four weeks.

Her coach Carlos Rodriguez said she was treated badly for opting out and hinted she is now unlikely to play in the final.

"I always thought that had Justine been injured in a more obvious way the public would have found this a more adequate excuse," Maes said in an open letter on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, we live in a small country where opinions vary and particularly in Flanders and Wallonia things are viewed differently.

"Hopefully, we can forget all the polemic of the last weeks and think about positive sporting matters.

"I only have the sporting interest of the team at heart and it is clear that we have a greater chance of success with both top world players."

Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters guided Belgium to their maiden Cup triumph in 2001. But having not played in the competition since July 2003, the world number three returned for the first round contest in April against Russia.

REAL PAIN

After just one tie, however, it seems her comeback could be short-lived.

An angry Rodriguez declared on Henin-Hardenne's website:

"Contrary to the assertion, and promises made by the Francophone Federation of Belgium's President Andre Stein that Justine will take part in the Italy tie to be played in September, Justine will not participate under these conditions."

Rodriguez fumed that his charge was initially encouraged to cheer her team on at the semi-final in Ostend, and then urged not to attend lest the crowd turned against her.

"She was thrilled to be joining the team at the Fed Cup dinner on Friday but was turned away from that too," Rodriguez said. "The lack of respect and recognition gives her real pain."

Maes said he wanted to protect the team and Henin-Hardenne.

"I am hoping for a possible return of Justine and am happy that we did have contact yesterday," Maes said.

Belgium would struggle to win the Sept. 16-17 final without Henin-Hardenne as the Italian team features top 20 players Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta.

Clijsters is ranked second in the world but Kirsten Flipkens, the Belgian number three, is 122nd.

Source:
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