Down Under: 109-109.
How can I explain the Henin v Clijsters match? How do I do it justice?
The pair played 218 points in total, Henin won 109. Clijsters 109. There were 12 breaks of serve all up. Henin 6. Clijsters 6.
But these are just stats. The pair double faulted, shanked wildly, and both lost significant leads and failed to close out the match. If your definition of “good tennis” is “smooth tennis”, this was not your show.
But stats tell only half the tale. There was history – a fierce rivalry separated by 2 wins in Justine’s favor. There was drama of the best kind – all court tennis, ridiculous all-court rallies. There was smart, thinking point-construction – two women with the ability to turn defense into offense. There was athleticism. There was flair. There was power. There was finesse.
There were comeback fairytales, as Kim continued to rise and shine and Justine looked fierce and competitive in her very first tournament back.
No one held back. No one looked miserable when they were trailing. No one stopped competing.
And as a result, there was no real loser.
For a set and a half, Clijsters could do no wrong – serving hard, and moving around the court like she had springs for legs while Henin struggled to hold serve. You’re excused if you had turned off your TV by 6-3 4-1. But with a few loose points, the momentum turned faster than you could say “Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez”. Henin rattled off 8 straight games to win the second set, and go up 3-0 in the third.
While Clijsters eventually steadied the ship, Justine still led through the third set, having found her range and was by then hitting winners from all corners of the court. Henin had an opportunity to serve out the match at 5-3.A game later, she had 2 match points, one of which was off a powderpuff Clijsters second serve. Justine took a swing … and found the net.
Meanwhile, excuse me while I interrupt the match report with the obligatory “Jada owns my ovaries/the Mighty Babes, please grow some hair” pic.
Dear Mirka, how soon can we have Myla and Charlene sitting in the player’s box with you?
As the match was sent into a tiebreak, Clijsters raced to an early 6-3 lead. Kim had 2 of her 3 match points on serve. The second of which – a backhand would-be-winner missed by the narrowest of margins while the crowd had begun to celebrate already.
Henin saved the third match point by holding her own serve. At 6-all in the tiebreak, the match couldn’t be any closer, and the subsequent double fault by Justine came at an suicidally inconvenient time.
It was 4th time lucky for Kim Clijsters, who donated her prize money to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brissie, drawing an emotional standing ovation from the crowd.
We don’t call her “Aussie Kim” for nothing.
As for Henin, she accomplished far, far more than what I expected of her in her first tournament back.
The challenge right now is to recover in time for the Australian Open, as Henin pulled out of Sydney after the match with some tightness in her left leg. Not a huge deal – somehow, I think she got more match practice than she expected out of the week.
And just like that, the first final of 2010 at a minor tournament kicked every single grand slam final in 2009’s ass all the way back to 1999.
How’s that for an epic?