The busiest man on Belgium’s Fed Cup team last weekend was physiotherapist Sam Verslegers after US Open champion Kim Clijsters suffered a foot injury which endangers her participation in next month’s French Open and former world no.1 Justine Henin broke a bone in the little finger of her left hand.
Initial prognosis suggests Clijsters could be sidelined for six weeks after injuring sesamoid bones in her left big toe, which would mean a no show at Roland Garros which begins on May 23.
Henin, who only uses her left hand to toss up the ball, was fit enough to play the reverse singles against Estonia in Hasselt and is expected to take her place in the draw for this week’s Porsche Grand Prix WTA Tour event in Stuttgart where she is unseeded but handed a wild card and could face compatriot Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.
Clijsters was hurt stretching for a ball in her 6-4 6-2 win over Maret Ani on Saturday. She suffered a muscle rupture midway through the second set but didn’t appreciate the extent of the injury and persevered to round out the victory. The pain intensified afterwards she was taken to hospital went to the hospital, where an MRI scan revealed there was bruising of bones in her left foot.
Back up to 11th on the WTA Tour world rankings following her win at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Clijsters is now Belgium’s top ranked player after moving ahead of Wickmayer. But the news is the first major set-back of the 26 year-old’s comeback after deciding to quit the sport in 2007 because of a succession of injuries.
She is not optimistic about the immediate future. “When the doctor tells you six weeks, then you start panicking,” said Clijsters who is currently walking with the aid of crutches. “You think of your season’s planning.”
Verslegers is barely more optimistic and said: "Roland-Garros? Kim might be fit in time but we won't be taking any risks. We'll be working to return a step at a time so right now it's difficult to put a timeline on when she will return to action."
When Henin was selected for the team several weeks previously, her team ethic was criticized by Marc Wickmayer, father of the youngest member of Belgium’s trio of leading players. But she stepped forward to play 124th ranked Kaia Kanepi and lost a tight encounter 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Belgium captain Sabine Appelmans described how Henin received her injury. "She was at the net and the ball came over and she didn't know whether to volley it. Instead, she took it with her hand and broke her finger."
The Belgians won the World Group play-off tie played at the Grenslandhallen-Ethias Arena 3-2 thanks to two singles wins from Wickmayer and Clijster’s heroic victory against Ani.
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