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?