Down Under: Tale of two Belgians
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of power, it was the age of aesthetics, it was the epoch of Williams, it was the epoch of Belgium, and all of a sudden, the last two years of WTA decapitation seemed but a foggy Monday morning that no one cares to remember.
An all-Belgian final was what many of us wished for at the start of the week, but having it actually eventuate was something else.
I hadn’t counted on Justine Henin making the final in her first tournament back. Was I aware of her class and competitive strength? Of course. But the last image Henin had left me with was her unfocused, miserable defeat to Dinara Safina in Berlin in 2008. It took Kim Clijsters a few tournaments after her comeback to really get going, and Henin doesn’t possess the easy power that Clijsters has in her game, making life just that much more difficult for her.
So you see – I was justified in wondered how long it would take for Henin to make her first final.
Not very, as it turns out.
In truth, Henin put on a somewhat scrappy performance after her impressive win against Nadia Petrova earlier in the week. Sesil Karatantcheva had her number at various stages during their match and Justine barely sank Czink 8-6 in the third set tiebreak. The serve had yet to show itself to be an improved thing of wonder, and the forehand had been erratic all week.
Why wouldn’t it be? The stingy bitch has shortened the backswing to allow herself better court position and her opponents even less time than they had before, but in doing so, the timing on it has become more important than ever.
But shaky as her forehand maybe, Henin has a knack of exposing someone like Ana Ivanovic’s weaknesses – her movement, ability to turn, her inconsistency when dealing with the variety of shots that Henin was feeding her, her shot selection under pressure…
But in truth, Ivanovic didn’t have a bad week. She came close to extending her losing streak by another tournament against Dokic, but since then, Ana has gradually improved her game. While the ball toss is still as neurotic as ever, at least she seems to be getting back control of her forehand, a crucial part of her game that crumbled late last year.
While Ana may be disappointed with her loss, she may look back on Brisbane in a few months’ time as a small step on her way to recovering form.
But as they say, form is temporary while class, like diamonds, is forever.
In the other semi of the day, the match became somewhat insignificant compared to the outcome. An Henin v Clijsters clash was destined by the Tennis Gods and very few will remember that it was Andrea Petkovic that Kim had to beat to get to the dream final.
While not as commanding her matches earlier in the week, it was nonetheless a solid performance by Kim, who has my bet – though not my support – for taking the title.
And like with the Williamses or the Fedal, you may like both while they’re not pitted against each other, but when it comes to a clash, you gotta pick a side: Team Just-in-time or Team Kimpossible?
Regardless of the result, the tone for 2010 has been set – it’s a tale of two Belgians, and either may look to tomorrow and remark that “it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”