Quotable Quotes: GAME. ON.
Q. The last time you played in ’08 during the Australian Open, it was not good memories. There was a lot of tension. Her father was in the stands and was quite angry. Is this something that you can’t really accept even today?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, not really, because it’s a new page now for me, frankly. And by the way, I have an incredible memory, as you know, and there are many matches of the past that I’ve forgotten, because it’s a new page for me. I see things totally differently today.
Rewind back just over 2 years, 2007 Madrid Year-End WTA Championships, Sharapova and Henin played one of my favourite matches of the last decade. 3 hours and 25 minutes, 3 sets, zero tiebreaks, endless deuces. Henin would come through the match to finish the year on a 25 match winning streak, a streak that she would extend til January next year against … you guess it – Maria Sharapova. Only this time, Maria Sharapova would thoroughly out-blast, and at times even outrun Justine Henin.
But for that brief 3 month period between November and February, it looked like we had a rivalry. By the end of May, Justine Henin would be retired, and Maria Sharapova would tumble from her pedestal with the worst (undiagnosed) injury of her career.
Q. Justine said that the match you played in Australia seems very distant to her, very far away. Obviously she retired and came back since then. A lot has happened to you, as well. You’ve had some involuntary time off. Does it also seem distant to you, that whole Australian Open run?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually feels like we never left, or it was just yesterday. (laughter.)
That’s so funny. It was a couple of years ago, and, you know, here we are. We’re back. It’s a different Slam, but, you know, it’s the same drill. We’re waiting before matches. It’s as if, you know, things haven’t really changed much.
But obviously you think back to the last few years, and both of us have been in different paths and different times in our lives. But here we are going to face each other tomorrow.
Ice Cow is right. We’re continuing right where we left off. Different slam, same opponents, this time each with a world of maturity, frustration and perseverance in their tank.
Consider the factors in Justine’s favour –
- She’s second in the WTA race: won Stuttgart, final at the Australian Open, semi in Brisbane and Miami. Year-to-date win/loss record thoroughly exceeds the meager wins of Maria.
- She leads the H2H 6-3.
- She’s the four-time champion for fuck sake. This is her home turf.
But knowing full well that I may have egg on my face in about 3 hours, if there was ever a time to put some money on Maria Sharapova to pull off an ‘upset’, now would be it.
I wouldn’t be the first to say that Henin hasn’t been playing Head Bitch Tennis this tournament. That’s not to say that she won’t improve from match to match, but that is saying that Maria Sharapova has a chance, given the way she has played in her first two rounds. We’re talking clean, deep ball striking, better defence, stable serve, single digit unforced errors. We’re talking about Sharapova making her brand of BYO Big Babe tennis work on clay.
She is by no means the favourite coming into this match, but as Justine said herself, “I think there’s one quality we share, which is we are winners. We are fighters. With this girl, it’s never over.”