justine-heninNo doubt inspired by countrywoman Kim Clijsters stirring victory at the U.S. Open earlier this month, former top-ranked tennis star Justine Henin is expected to announce her return to competitive tennis today.

Just last year, Henin shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement while she was still the world’s top-ranked player.  She said just last May that the many physical ailments she had suffered would make a comeback impossible, even going as far as insisting in an interview last year that she categorically “does not miss tennis.”

But that was before Clijsters made her run at the U.S. Open, shocking everybody by defeating Venus and Serena Williams in the tournament, before dropping Caroline Wozniacki in the finals to win her second Grand Slam title. Henin took notice.

“What you have come to achieve there is incredible,” Henin wrote of Clijsters on her web site. “I very warmly congratulate you on your magnificent victory.”

Henin, now apparently bored with just being an ambassador for UNICEF, has recently begun training again, and a Belgian television station reported that she had been spotted buying 14 new tennis rackets (seriously, is this what passes for sports news in Belgium?  A woman buying tennis rackets? Where’s the scandal? Where’s the pizzazz?)  And a few weeks ago, she started training to play in a small exhibition tournament in Charleroi, Belgium, again fueling speculation of a return.

Henin’s camp has kept quiet so far on the prospect of a return, but that hasn’t stopped the Belgian press from salivating over the thought of Clijsters and Henin joining forces to represent their country in the Fed Cup (Belgians care about the Fed Cup?  That’s so cute.  Have no idea what the Fed Cup is?  Click the previous link.)

Tiny but gifted with a fabulous backhand, a great all-round game and a tough mentality, Henin won seven Grand Slam titles in seven years — four French Opens, two U.S. Opens and one Australian Open — as well as two WTA Tour Championships.

She won a total of 41 WTA Tour titles and held the world No.1 spot for 117 non-consecutive weeks, a position she had when she retired on May 14, 2008.

More news on this later.  If we don’t update, just assume that she did, indeed, announce her return.