Roland Garros R16: 31.05
31.05.2009. I made a mental note of it last year, because the last day of May had brought with it such May-hem, with Rafael Nadal crashing out of the tournament to Robin (who?!) Soderling.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached the 31st May 2010, hoping for a less eventful day this year.
But different year, same day, another four-time champion sent packing. Only this time, less shocking. Stosur came into the French Open with a shiny clay court title, her career-high ranking, and the arguable designation of the best player on clay this year. And while Henin’s records on clay speak for themselves, that was Henin 1.0. Henin 2.0 is a slightly modified prototype – more aggressive, hits with more pace (or at least purports to) and seemingly less inclined to the backhand slice.
“Justine Henin has turned into a brainless ball-basher.”
So I’ve heard, time and time again over the course of this year.
Get a grip Tennis World. I would’ve thought anyone so prepared to finish off a point at the net with volleys “full of jealousy and discrimination” automatically surrenders the right to be branded a “brainless ball-basher”.
Justine came back on tour with the idea that she was going to be more aggressive – she has to be, not just for the sake of winning Wimbledon, but for the long-term sustainability of her game against the field. But of course, with a more aggressive game style, her clay-court game is always going to be more volatile, and being more timing-reliant than ever before, it’ll take her longer than Kim Clijsters to adjust and become consistent. Rest assured though – she will, if that old saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” still rings true.
You just don’t doubt the will of Justine Henin.
As for Sam Stosur, it’s hard not to appreciate her Verdasco-like forehand. Or her sheer old-school attitude on-court – she doesn’t look to the coach, doesn’t grunt. She constructs her points with purpose, she smashes overheads with authority rather than fear (something about the women’s game that thoroughly annoys me). Relics of her doubles experience no doubt.
At the end of the day, I think this little tidbit for Bodo says it all about her.
Shortly after the match, the PA announcer for the press room told us what time Henin would arrive. And not long after that he came on to say that Stosur would do her press interview about three hours later – after her doubles match. It’s not like beating Justine Henin at Roland Garros is sufficient reason to bask in glory and neglect your due diligence to the game of doubles, as well as a partner who’s depending on you, right?
But that’s the old Aussie way, and Stosur is doing a fair job, on various levels, representing it these days.
No spotlight, no grunts, no bitch fights, no dramas. Just pure dedication to the sport of tennis. Countrywoman or not, it’s hard not to appreciate Sam’s quiet, introverted way of forcing herself onto the big stage.
Good luck next round,