Aus Open Day 10: Deja Vu.

Given the sheer amount of fandom and media hysteria, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Nadal’s injury was the bigger story today.

But we’ve been there before, on the same day last year. So I’ll get onto all that another time. For now, Justine Henin is gone, again.

For a player who was not particularly well-liked during the bulk of her career, Justine has a knack for leaving you with an Henin-shaped void in your universe, to the point where you see shadows of her everywhere – in Suarez Navarro, sometimes in Francesca Schiavone, and for a while in 2009, rather ridiculously, we claimed to see it in Melanie Oudin.

But that’s what she does to ya, being so utterly unique and so memorable in style.

There are players who are consistent and good, who present a heathy, glamourous image to the world on behalf of women’s tennis (read: Caroline Wozniacki), and then there are players who inspire you to pick up a racquet, to scream your voice hoarse, to invest emotionally in their triumphs and misfortunes. Henin, Schiavone, Kuznestova all fall in the latter camp, and the WTA lost a bit of inspiration today.

Let it be known that Justine 2.0 should be seen as a success, and nothing else: coming back from a 20 month break, she made (and lost) epic finals in Brisbane and at the Australian Open, another marathon in Miami against Kim, won Stuttgart and s’Hertogenbosch and made Round 16 at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Not exact shabby results, to understate things massively.

What I will miss about Henin 2.0:

  • the personal ease and joy of spirit she brought back the second time round was something we never saw the first time. For her, I dare say the emotional revelation in returning to tennis probably cast a new light on her entire career.
  • Her game. Duh.
  • Second chances. Believe in them, give them. At some point, members of tennis fandom and media need to STOP obsessing over two low points of Henin’s youth and making them reflective of her entire character. The woman was not pure evil. She got carried away with competition at times in a lonely, heated environment. Is that so inexcusable, in the grand scheme of things known as human nature?
  • More so than any moment in the last 6 months, I miss Serena. With Venus injured, Justine retired, and Serena still in recovery, there is a sense that the true leaders are missing. As I was saying before, we’re left with a lot of good players, but not many who inspire. (Kuznetsova and Schiavone notwithstanding)
  • And I will miss the Wimbledon she never won. Forever and ever and ever and ever.

If I were a bigger person, less invested in this sport, less admiring of Justine Henin, I would probably let this go.

Hmm … let’s see: Justine Henin sustained a serious elbow injury, an injury which Bodo insists on calling “routine” in his piece. Oh really? Would you like me to break your elbow and see how you play professional tennis with it? Is ‘routine’ the word you used to describe Rafa’s hamstrings, knees, shoulders and abdominal tears too?

It’s a moot point at this stage, but I do believe Henin’s heart was in her comeback. I do believe she “expressed joy” when she was out on court. Justine is never going to yelp in desperate passion like her name was Ana Fistpumpovic, but you don’t become the first person to take a set off Serena in a grand slam final since 2008 by not putting your heart in it.

And this … I’m not even quite sure where do start …

… I don’t believe McEnroe drove Borg out of tennis, but I believe Clijsters might have driven out Henin. But does it really matter? The important thing is that the Henin comeback has ended, and badly. It’s a pity, and I hope she finds happiness or at least satisfaction in whatever else she chooses to do. It would be naive to ignore the fact that in the end Clijsters has the last laugh, after having to watch Henin version 1.0 utterly eclipse her as a champion.

Never mind that Justine Henin came out and wrote, in PLAIN, GRAMMATICALLY SOUND, and HONEST English, that she is retiring because she can’t afford to play on physically. Oh no, that couldn’t possibly be the reason why Henin’s leaving the game. Kim Clijsters must’ve driven her out with Mister Hubby-Shmubby, Jada, and her grand total of 3 slams won on the same court. Watch Justine shiver in jealousy and baby-lust!

As for Bodo’s question:

Has a person so strikingly plain ever had such a shimmering, artistic game?

I ask in return: has any person so backhandedly complimentary ever wrote with such a chauvinistic, patriarchal and sexist tone?

xx doots



22 responses to “Aus Open Day 10: Deja Vu.”

  1. marcoiac says :

    i think you should have let this go. beautiful post, almost elegiac, before you start citing friggin bodo. leave the loser alone. life is short. no point in wasting time with morons. scratch all the text below justin’s picture. it’s a nice way a honoring her, ending the post with her picture

  2. whynotme says :

    I had tears in my eyes (for the second time in a few hours, let me hope it won’t make a third time tonight…) when I read her fb post. Especially at: “I will never forget your support and your loyalty. And if I only regret one thing, this would be that I’ve protected myself too hard and that I couldn’t stand closer to you. I hope you will forgive me my clumsiness and a wonderful reminder of shared emotions will keep them together.”

    Oh, Justine…. You SHOULDN’T HAVE to regret anything or to apologize for who you are!! Fuck. The. Press. Bodo, Wertheim and Tignor have ALL been utterly (and expectedly) disgraceful and ridiculous regarding Justine’s retirement, and to some degree regarding yesterday’s match (among other double standards and exaggerations, using this to take a jab at Federer, Tignor??). And questioning Justine’s timing is the fucking STUPIDEST thing I’ve ever read about someone retiring!!! Especially out of injury! I am so mad I can’t even express it properly. Is there ANY US journo that is actually a decent and compassionate and sympathetic person out there?? Wish I was in France and could buy L’Equipe tomorrow to cheer me up!

    • dootsiez says :

      You’d think someone with Henin’s career would’ve deserved a little more reflection on her legacy and LESS flak. Less accusation that she was trying to steal someone’s thunder. Less self-obsessed “how dare she not wait a week before retiring”? Less speculation that she is running away “scared” of Kim Clijsters.

      BUT NO.

    • ClayBuster says :

      The more rubbish I read from the press – and it’s been a LOT lately – the more I’m starting to believe that in order to become a sports journo, your main asset should be ‘being a total douchebag’.

      Unfortunately, with all the attention they’re getting from people of us, they surely won’t stop – they crave the attention and live for sensationalism.

      The way Bozo speaks about Henin is really under-the-belt indeed, I wish someone-from-higher-up over there would finally call out that guy on his garbage and kick him off of his blog. It’s high time for that to happen.

      Thanks Dootsiez for at least giving Henin the tribute she so fully deserves. She will be missed – gravely so. Women’s tennis is truly in the gutter right now…
      (well at least we won’t see Pushniacki get her first slam title at the AO. That’s a little bit of a relief.)

  3. evietoo says :

    Jesus, did he really write that last line? I skimmed his piece, but missed that line. It’s not even a back-handed compliment. It’s blatantly sexist. When is the last time he wrote about the strikingly plain Stan Wawrinka contrasting his beautiful BH? Wouldn’t happen.

    Rest assured, when the backlash he elicits happens in the comments, he’ll say, “I wasn’t talking about her looks. Why are you talking about them? I was talking about what a down-to-earth and plainly grounded person she is.” Because that’s what Bodo does — makes blatantly sexist statements and then acts as if everyone else is crazy for noticing.

    He is revered among tennis journalists, and that’s the problem. I’m glad you’re calling him out on his chauvinism. Giving him a pass is like saying it doesn’t matter.

  4. Matt Zemek says :

    I’m not pissed or outraged: I ask this as a huge Henin fan —- she was (past tense – SNIFFLE!) my favorite player of the post-Navratilova era —- with cerebral detachment:

    Is it possible that the reference to “strikingly plain” could be a simple physical description and nothing else?

    With equally cool detachment and no rancor or emotion whatsoever, I ask: Is it possible that, moreover, the reference to strikingly plain looks only enhances the respect for the shimmering, artistic brand of tennis Justine Henin so blessedly and beautifully brought to this world and to my enriched lifetime?

  5. Jack says :

    I was never a big fan of Justine but I’m digusted at the lack of sympathy towards her retirement. I just can’t believe the amount of crap that is getting thrown her way.

    I mean, this is a woman who has been forced to retire, from a sport she evidently loves, because of an injury. Surely, we should be honouring the great champion she was rather than lampooning her about stealing people’s thunder (which is total bullshit).

    Also, why is Justine getting so much crap yet Kim doesn’t, even know she constantly harping on about when she might retire.

    Anway, regardless of all that, Justine Henin will still be remembered as one of the greats of the game.

    Oh, and as far as I’m concerned. Pete Bodo is an asshole of the highest order!

  6. Caroline Paquin (folpoulet) says :

    Well-written, dootsie! Good of you to quote those parts of Bodo’s article. They made me wince, too. Nice tribute to Justine. I’ll miss her. The WTA will miss her and her game immensely. She was a blessing of variety, the same way Schiavo and Kuzzy are, too. And Kim. Tennis isn’t just a hit hard and harder still, shoveling sport. Justine was showing it every time she was on a court.

  7. Kathryn Benninghoff says :

    Perceptive, sensitive, properly indignant post, Doots. Spot on. Your second bullet point says it all: “Her game. Duh.” She was the female Roger Federer. Glorious game, phenomenal fluidity, and innate athleticism and grace (when the two are rightly equated) … such an aesthetic pleasure to watch. Thanks for giving Henin her due.

  8. steve says :

    She’s not my favorite, though her game is beautiful. She was a tortured player, her enjoyment on-court was always tempered by a sense of the tremendous grinding effort it took to maintain her level of play. She reminds me more of Nadal in that way, even though her game is nothing like Nadal’s.

    It sucks that her career has to come to an end this way, but she tried and gave it her best shot in her comeback. You can’t ask for more than that.

    We knew Bodo was a jackass. Not surprising that he’s a sexist jackass too.

  9. jo says :

    well said… thanks…
    i am completely sad. what a player, what a champion, what a heart she has for tennis!

    knowing full well her injury may end her career, she took the risk anyway, playing with the same full committment to try to overcome odds. and this time, not to her choice.

    she is simply unique in style, in mental and in her passion to overcome bigger players on tour, to overcome her fragile body, to overcome all odds with determined heart and mind.

    she is, one true sparkling player of her era. she gave everything for tennis first time round, and gave all she could the second time also. what more to ask for? i will surely and sadly miss her tremendously.

  10. jo says :

    and thank you once again, for doing justine justice.

    i can only imagine that there are haters outside, because justine is well loved by her fans and admirers. and being unique and extraordinary is no shame.

    thank you justine for being justine.

  11. Louis says :

    I won’t get to see Henin around Philippe Chatrier court never again, maybe she’ll attend Roland Garros as espectator! Well, hope she can be happy and free, will certainly miss her. Well, women’s tennis lost, once again, a fountain of inspiration, such a champion gihting against all the odds, it was amazing while it lasted, really was.

  12. Kathryn Benninghoff says :

    Two more bits: 1) Nice Sports Illustrated piece, Doots; 2) Sweet Arundhati Roy reference to TGoST in your Henin post. Most appreciated.

  13. pban says :

    Maybe I am not a great Justine fan, but I would never wish anyone a shitty epitaph from these asses who like to call themselves journalists.

  14. flo says :

    I think the problem is Bodo doesn’t have the right perspective on life in general. He puts drive, success, glory in the sport paramount, above all else as if any player not willing to sacrifice quality of life in the future for that fleeting moment of triumph on the court should be considered unworthy. The larger point is only people in Henin’s inner circle know all the facts and circumstances so if she says it’s the elbow injury then I’d take her at her word unless there was some huge revelation that that is not the case. This is the Jay Cutler crap that has been spewed from American journalist for the last week or so: a warped sense of “competitiveness”.

  15. A_Gallivant says :

    I am sad to see her go. I had just posted her 0pen Drive saying how much I was enjoying her personalty. Thanks for the right send off about a beautiful player.

  16. flo says :

    I’m a little scared in that I’m taking this Federer loss really well. Not too disappointed because I felt it was so 50-50 and he obviously didn’t play the big points and did a horrible job of holding in the crucial games. But like the last 6 months people have been hyping the his new returns (which are better and more offensive and much better than using the chip exclusively, imo) and his backhand drives; and it’s here that, that backhand is still kinda fragile against a rock like djoko and it drags down his other wing because now he feels any forehand he gets he needs to make something happen. Too many shanks and felt like when he needed a point on serve it had to be a first serve or the ensuing rally would require something special (and that’s if he can hang in there). This calm might also have to do with the schadenfreude-y thing with Nadal: this wasn’t the worst case scenario, it just wasn’t the best.

    Oh and great effort Li Na though I have a bad feeling that Clijsters may come out playing lights out but so it goes.

  17. Freudo says :

    Thanks Doots. You are right on. I always loved Justine’s game and her evolution as a person compelling, too. I love yu imahe of a void in her image.shape. What a wonderful compact phrase which perfectly fits the subject. I’d rather have her playing but I will hold an image of her in my mind and heart forever. Wish her ease and excitement in her life, and love, of course. Bah-humbug Bodo!

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