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Enveloped in Love 06/09/2007 - 3:35 PM

Trophy

It was, clearly the first thing a young, maiden Grand Slam finalist must guard against, is told to guard against, vows to guard against, prepares to guard against and, often, cannot guard against.  It goes by the common name "nerves", and it can paralyze you, glue your feet to the clay in a wide-awake anxiety dream, throw a wrench into your most well-oiled athletic motor and drill holes in your motorskills.

Ana Ivanovic  knew all that before she stepped out to play the women's final at Roland Garros yesterday, and it didn't help.

Some things, no matter well you've prepared to meet them, you must undergo. You don't have a trial by fire without getting your eyebrows singed, and so it was with Ivanovic. She started well - very well - breaking Justine Henin in the first game of the match. In the next game, she continued playing positive, aggressive tennis, to go up, 40-0.

Then she tossed the ball to serve; she went up looking for it, but couldn't find it. It was up there, point after point, game after game. . . in fact, Ana's still looking for that danged serve. As she would say later:

I felt okay. I was trying to put the nerves aside, emotions aside.  But then, in the first service game, it's, all of a sudden, from one point to another.  It just -- it just hit me, I guess.  And I had so much trouble with my ball toss, first serve.  It was going everywhere.  It was very hard to control it. And obviously, then I was trying just to put my first serve in.  And she's a great player, so she could use the opportunities she had.  And I think that was -- that was the big difference today.

It was the big difference on only one other occasion that Ivanovic could remember, the last round of a qualifying match for a Tier one event in Zurich, early in her career. Recalling that moment, she said:

I was a little bit nervous.  But not half as I was today.  But I think that's something I reach for first time in my life.  And it's amazing, so I -- I'm not too surprised. . .Well, she's mentally very tough opponent, also, physically, she moves great.  So it's very hard to hit winners against her.  And you have to hit many shots.  She forced you to win points few times, and until you actually finished the points.  I was expecting that today.  And she had time to turn very powerful shots as well.  But I mean, just if my serve would have worked, and I think it could be a much different match.

The most noteworthy aspect of Ana's performance may be the way she ultimately reacted to playing deer to Henin's halogen headlights. There were no tears, self-recriminations, or excuses.She was as effervescent and  breathless as ever. She 'fessed up, fully. She became paralyzed. She couldn't find her serve, and while pre-occupied looking for it, all kinds of bad things happened to her - but then Henin has a way of making bad things happen to good people.

Henin has won this event three years running, and it was under circumstances that were simultaneously touching, inspiring and, for Henin, potentially ennervating. This was her first major since she was reunited with her family, an episode she won't discuss before an audience. But a few of us found her brothers, David and Thomas, in the player lounge shortly after the final, and they were forthcoming.

David, 34, is the oldest of five children - but he would not have been, were it not for a tragic event that ended the life of a sister, Florence, when she was just two, and Madame Henin was six months pregnant with David. Florence was killed by a drunk driver who ran his car into the garden at Justine's grandfather's home,  while Florence was playing there. Thus, David ultimately became the oldest of the four Henin children. The others are, in order, Thomas, Justine and Sarah.

So three members of Justine's original, immediate family were not present today: Florence, Francoise (who died 12 years ago, of cancer) and Justine's father, Jose. David explained that  Jose chose to watch on today's final television, at home in Belgium, because the occasion was "too emotional."

David came to this tournament not having seen Justine play since around 2000, because family problems that the Henins decline to discuss caused a falling-out between Justine and the rest of the clan for seven years. That break was healed in April,  when, in yet another automobile-related tragedy, David suffered a near fatal car crash that left him in a coma for two days.

Soon after David came to, he looked up from his hospital bed to see the familiar faces of Thomas and Sarah, and the foreign (at least not in the flesh) face of Justine. She had come to the hospital with the rest of the family to visit David. It was the first step in a family reunion that has climaxed here at this tournament. David said of the visit: "It was very moving. It really boosted my morale. It was something horrible that turned into something good."

"We had no communication with Justine for those seven years," David said. "She had her life, we had our life. But it is different now. She is a different person. Then, she was a teen-ager. Now she is a woman. And she is very special to us now. It was very important for us to see Justine in life (live). Now, she comes to see us every month, and she phones every week. We have permanent contact."

Of the troubled past, David would only say: "We don't speak about this. . . clash. It's past, now is the future and we are all together. It wasn’t a question of forgiving each other. We reconciled. I’m not going to try to explain why (the estrangement) happened. I have no explanation. She decided to live her life her way."

The family will celebrate with Justine tonight at a Parisian Italian restaurant, although David won't join them. "My wife and I are going back home. We have no time for the celebration because it's not good for me to go late at night. I have to work tomorrow, in the bar (David and Thomas, 31,own a bar together).

Reflecting on  recent events, Thomas, 31, said, "We thought we'd become close again after her career, but strangely, it happened now. It was her decision to invite us to the tennis, and it turned out to be a wonderful day."

Knowing how emotional the moment might be for Henin, the family asked her: Are you sure you want us there? Absolutely, Henin replied. And then she took the court against Ivanovic and demonstrated just what David meant when he told us, "She was always very serious. She was serious in school. When she was 8 years old she used to jump rope thousands and thousands of times, because she needed to. When she has a goal, she does what she has to to get there."

Justine's spirits soared toward her goal yesterday, and that aim, fittingly enough, was a reconciliation with and tribute to her family, expressed in the most curious and seemingly unrelated manner: by  virtue of a Grand Slam title won in their presence. Is there any more poignant and sharp example of the way tennis has ruled this young woman's life?Justineact

Of course, Ivanovic helped provide Henin's spirits with lift, but then so did her family, as well as the person Henin has most fully and unconditionally loved since the death of her Francoise Henin: her coach, Carlos Rodriguez. Throughout the match, Justine opened envelopes containing notes, including a final one that she only read after the end of the match.

That [last] one I'm going to keep it for me. Sorry. I'm sure that's the one that you want to know, but it's just Carlos and me. And the other ones, it's tactically, so you don't care about that. So, what I have to do on my serve, on my return at that time. And so, nothing special. But like I said, I had some troubles in the first, with my concentration and everything, and Carlos wanted me to be very, very professional on every point, and just remind me a few things at that time, pretty tight times during the match.But the last one, no. I mean, the thing I can say is that he's proud of me, for sure.

The ballad of Justine and Carlos is touching, and a mite strange. To understand just how much he has meant to her,in ways that have nothing to do with forehands and volleys (although he has everything to do with those as well), consider her own comments:

You know, it's 11 years, and that's pretty unique. Not a lot of people, just a few people can do it. And it's tough. You need a lot of respect, you need to be strong, and you need to love each other a lot, also. And I think we have everything in our relationship. And it's just great.

And his family, also, how they support me. How they can deal with the situation. And it's just amazing. We got closer and closer in the last few months, even if Carlos wants to keep some distance. But I think he starts to realize that we -- it's much more than a professional relationship. And he respects me a lot as a player, but much more important, as person.

And it's been amazing how he's been strong in the last few months with me.


When was the last time you heard a player use the word love in its most basic, profound sense, when talking about his or her coach? How many coaches try to  "keep some distance" instead of having to work to close it? At this event, Carlos's emotional support may have been even more valuable to Justine than his tactical expertise. As she explained:

It's been hard for me, everything I lived in the last few months, ups and downs, you know, I mean, good things, bad things. And then I just realized that it's life. And life is ups and downs and you have to accept it. And you just have to deal with it. But I've been a little bit surprised how I could handle with the situation. It's been tough. And Carlos helped me so much, because we discussed a lot about that. We knew the situation is different now, and there are good things about it and things that we have to readjust also. And it's been a great adventure again in the last few weeks to build this victory. And we've been very close, Carlos and me, one more time. And it's really a team victory.

Trying to put the victory into context, Justine said:

Yeah, I think, you know, the match has been pretty easy, even if at the beginning of the match, she had the control for two games. And then she's been pretty nervous, and I did my job perfectly. I served well, and I did what I had to do on the court. But the atmosphere, and what I felt when I won, and the fact that, yeah, my family was there, and the good people around me. And it's been, yeah, a huge step in my life in the last few months. And I was glad I could give them this victory. Because everyone suffered a lot from the situation in the last few years. And today, finally, we are united in this joy, and we can share this moment, and it's great. And I feel so happy that I can offer that to them.

Who knows, next year Jose Henin may also appear in Justine's box, but remember that this is Justine, a woman who does things in her own way, in her own time, utterly indifferent to how she is perceived. This is how she addressed the subject:

We'll see. I need to take my time. We talked to each other; I knew he was watching me on television. He sent me a message. He's very happy after the match. He's very proud of his daughter. But just take my time. I know one day he'll be with me, beside me on the court.


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Posted by ginger 06/09/2007 at 03:48 PM

I have never been a fan of Justine, the human being but I have always loved the way she played tennis. It was a joy to watch her beautiful, fluid game. This past week, I have slowly become a fan of justine, the woman. All the best to her and her new found joy with her family

Posted by jhurwi 06/09/2007 at 04:04 PM

An excellent article, Pete! I read Justine's press conference on the Roland Garros site and found it very moving. Thanks for filling in the background of the family reconciliation.

Posted by Sam 06/09/2007 at 04:06 PM

Pete: This was a wonderful piece. Thank you for the backstory. I read this right after reading her presser.

Posted by Sam 06/09/2007 at 04:22 PM

This was a very interesting quote from her brother: "She was always very serious. She was serious in school. When she was 8 years old she used to jump rope thousands and thousands of times, because she needed to. When she has a goal, she does what she has to to get there."

Posted by Heidi 06/09/2007 at 04:38 PM

This is a very moving piece, as always, Pete. I appreciate the info, and I understand why the media has asked Henin so much about her family this week. It's clearly a very important step in her life. At the same time, I cringe a little bit every time she's asked and has to repeat that she would like to keep it private. The price of fame, I guess.

Here's hoping it all continues smoothly for her. The family certainly has had enough of tragedy and deserves their "enveloped in love" time.

Posted by pitch 06/09/2007 at 04:44 PM

thank you.
i often don't like your articles ;) but this one you did correctly and with a lot of respect.

thank you very muchh.

Posted by pitch 06/09/2007 at 04:44 PM

thank you.
i often don't like your articles ;) but this one you did correctly and with a lot of respect.

thank you very muchh.

Posted by KG 06/09/2007 at 04:46 PM

That was an amazing victory for Justine, more so having her family share it with her with them being reconciled and all. This must mean soooo much to her. Thanks so much Pete for giving us more info on that cos I've always wondered abt it. I've never really been a fan of Justine tbh, but it doesn't take a plank to admire her finesse style of play and the history she's started to write for herself. All the best to her as she continues to write more history. Now onto that Wimbledon title ey?

Posted by Tim 06/09/2007 at 04:46 PM

thanks for that reporting, great inside stuff, Pete ... i like Justine more now and Im really happy she can have some family support...i used to feel sorry for her, its no fun being estranged from family or isolated and alone, even if youre a rich famous tennis player...

Posted by Churchill's Ghost 06/09/2007 at 04:48 PM

Tough as she is, fragile as she is, Justy's awfully human all right. Boy was I confounded by the Aussie O. walkout. But slowly I came back around to see a beautiful game, a focused gal and someone for whom I would root for over all other competitors.

You've got to love the gal who doesn't fix her teeth or do her hair. She's the artist - she plays tennis beautifully, and with genius. Yet she will forever be the David vs. one Goliath after another. Long may she reign, the little fireplug.

And thank God she's got the family now to share the joy with.

Posted by Sanja 06/09/2007 at 04:50 PM

I love great backhanded compliments!

Congratulations Christine! Congratulations to AnaVIC for a great tournment played.

The family stuff is very intriguing.

Posted by Phil 06/09/2007 at 04:56 PM

Pete,

All credit to you and your wonderful post. You actually gave me information I didn't know, although I'm Belgian

Some time ago, I was very angry at you because you were always criticizing Justine for every action she takes. You did not reject the fact that she is a very professional player. But I kinda felt you kept on saying that woman has no heart or is not passionate. I do think she is a very kind person and she has a lot of passion in everything she does. She only keeps this for herself because she wants to show she's tough to impress her opponents.

Anyway, she showed today she is one of the great tennis players we will remember. She has not said her last words on the tour, I think she can still win other Slams.

I'm very proud to be Belgian because she is one of the only sportswoman in our country that enjoys so much success.

Congrats Justine!

Posted by temes 06/09/2007 at 04:58 PM

What a weird family.

Posted by Karen 06/09/2007 at 05:01 PM

After reading this piece, I realised something, us as fans we take these players for granted. We say to ourselves you are a professional you should be able to handle the ordeal of playing a professional sport, but this article just reinforces what I have been saying for a long time. The professional athlete first and foremost has to be very self centered. The next thing is that they have to be very focused, because it is only after accomplishing these 2 things that players of individual sports can become legends . I recall when I Serena won the AO and she dedicated it to her deceased sister, and now look at Justine dedicating this win to her whole family, to the fact that they are now reunited after so many years and the love and respect that she shares with her coach, we have to realise that these people are human beings. They are driven human beings, but they are human beings none the less, a lot more driven and a lot more determined to be successful but human beings none the less and we need to raise our hats to them on the wonderful job that they keep doing to keep us entertained.

Posted by Asha 06/09/2007 at 05:04 PM

Great Article Pete! Congrats to Justine, she is an amazing champion! :)

Posted by Miguel Seabra 06/09/2007 at 05:06 PM

Hi Pete

When Justine won her first GS title at Roland Garros, four years ago, I dared to ask her (but I did hesitate a lot...) in the post-victory presser if, in that moment of joy and significance in her career, she would talk again to her father.

I expected her to react with emotion (good or bad), but she was stone cold -- and pretty adamant: she wouldn't do it and I recall vaguely her saying something like «I'll celebrate this title only with the people I love».

What struck me the most was that she was serene while answering the question (meaning she had no doubt about the issue), but the words sounded a bit cruel and she had steely eyes. Right then I knew something really bad happened between them...

I'm glad it looks like it's all gone. Time heals. And she is a great champion, not only by temper but also with a nice game to go with it. For tennis's sake, I hope a lot of young girls see her play and try to emulate her, not some 6ft3 Cyber-Ova with rocket groundstokes...

Posted by Pete 06/09/2007 at 05:08 PM

Mikey!!!!

Posted by Samantha 06/09/2007 at 05:09 PM

Temes behave, there is nothing strange about this good family. Pete thanks for all the inside information, I love reading about the player's background. I've supported her for such along time and you know what, the hater don't bother me anymore so let them have fun with the hand incident. I'm just so proud of her and proud to say I'm the biggest Justine KAD. Go Justine!

Posted by temes 06/09/2007 at 05:11 PM

What is success, after all? Is it money, is it fame? Is it GS titles? When you think about it, what do those things mean anyway? We are trapped in our little bodies 24/7, and the only things that matter in our lives is the stimulation our brain gets from the physical world via our bodies. And I think things other than money, fame, GS titles create a much stronger and longer-lasting positive stimulation on us. Sometimes all it takes to fulfill oneself is to think and feel, not going around doing crazy things.

What? I went all philosofical.

Go Serena!

Posted by Miguel Seabra 06/09/2007 at 05:25 PM

Still there, mate?

Get your derrière out of there and go grab a nice dinner at St Michel!

See you at Wimbs...

Posted by Miguel Seabra 06/09/2007 at 05:25 PM

Still there, mate?

Get your derrière out of there and go grab a nice dinner at St Michel!

See you at Wimbs...

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/09/2007 at 05:25 PM

Amen, Miguel, to the last thought you expressed in your post.

No more Cyber-Ovas, si vous plais.

Posted by Sam 06/09/2007 at 05:45 PM

Miguel: Interesting thoughts, and like Matt I agree with your last paragraph.

Posted by codepoke 06/09/2007 at 05:45 PM

Pete - Don't you know you're not supposed to write pieces this beautiful and this touching about a stupid game or the people who love it?? It makes old guys get all sentimental and stuff.

Thanks.

Posted by jb 06/09/2007 at 05:51 PM

Great post Pete. I've always admired the fierceness of Justine's adherence to the path she's chosen. I've always felt that this young woman was always in control of her own destiny, and never part of someone's elses vison.

Nice to hear about the reconciliation with her family - so nice her brothers and sister could share this win with her.

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 05:58 PM

This whole thing has turned me into a Justine fan!

Posted by hammerhai 06/09/2007 at 06:00 PM

so true miguel. justine's game is what young ladies should strive to achieve. not the ugliness [and boring nature] of standing on the baseline and trying to kill the ball on every stroke.

as for justine, i have always been a fan of her game and ability to win, although she is so small in size. now, it is so much nicer to see that she has been able to reconcile with her family. i am confident that this made her victory today all the sweeter.

my .02

Posted by Sam 06/09/2007 at 06:10 PM

LOL Bob!

It has been nice to read the positive thoughts from the posters, in addition to Pete's moving piece. Great way for a Justine fan to enjoy her day of triumph.

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 06:18 PM

This was an incredible performance by Justine. Nerves certainly affected Ana, but it isn't like they destroyed her game. She served at 50%. 61% would have been another five first serves in; at the most a couple of points, since her winning percentage was 50% on first serves, and 41% on second serves. They both served at 170/148/9. Justine was just really on today, and never took her foot off the gas. She served at 55%, and which was probably 60% after her first service game. At least half of her unforced errors were when she was going for winners. She really never gave Ana anything to hit, and she was crushing that forehand. I was surprised that she decided to challenge Ana's forehand so much (though Ana was trying to keep the ball in a forehand exchange), but Justine was really putting pace on the ball, especially in the second set.

No player could have taken a set from her today. She was on fire after that first game and a half. She hit 20 second serves at an average of 148 k/h, and only missed one, winning 70% of those points, and 71% on her first serve. She did expose Ana's movement when playing somebody like Justine (if there is anyone like Justine). She seemed to be able to draw the short ball almost at will by crushing it to one side or the other. Match point was an example. Just too much pace, topspin, depth, and angle.

Ana's sportsmanship and demeanor were superb throughout the match. She is a credit to a women's circuit which is full of too much gamesmanship, and her sunny disposition reappeared almost immediately after what was certainly a huge disappointment.

The family stuff really doesn't generally interest me. I really don't care about what players do off the court, and find it a bit difficult to shed tears for athletes who make several million dollars a year doing what they love. Watching Justine play tennis like she did today is so beautiful however that I did sort of enjoy the whole family thing a bit, but moreso Carlos. His pride and affection for her were never more evident than after she won that match. He just beams with it. His love for her is transparent. His whole family loves her.

You can see the strain on her face, and what tennis at that level does to players. She looks appreciably older than she did a few years ago. The closeup of her as she rested her forearms on the net after the last point was one of mature, comtemplative, utter joy.

I don't know who is going to ever beat her here if she's healthy.

Now it's time for Wimbledon. Go Justine!

Posted by Rosangel 06/09/2007 at 06:21 PM

This is a really interesting piece. I've read the 2004 book that was written about Justine and her breakup with her family (author Mark Ryan). From that I knew she had been in contact with her sister for a while. Also knew that Pierre-Yves, while probably not responsible in any direct sense for her falling-out with her family, may have been something of a catalyst in what happened, so maybe it's fitting that after her marriage breakup, the family have regained their daughter/sister. The author of the book, who spent a lot of time with Jose Henin, thought that maybe it may have been hard for Justine to be the second daughter who became the first because of her elder sister who was killed, and that this may have had an effect on the way her father related to her, and ultimately she to him. And then there was the part that tennis plays in her life....

I always thought it was tragic how her grandfather died on the day she lost a Wimbledon final, though she wasn't told until afterwards - though from the book I gather that this was her mother's father, and that she had had regular contact with him.

Justine Henin has, in her young life, lived through many things. She is by no means a perfect human being, but as a writer I can't help but be interested in her. A woman who always expressed great feeling for her mother, who she so sadly lost when young, but cut off the others that her mother loved.

How amazing to see her siblings there today.

Posted by fedfan 06/09/2007 at 06:27 PM

Lovely article. Justine has always struck me as an incredibly private, intense and sensitive young woman, especially when you compare her to, say, the average NBA or NFL superstar. I think she loves tennis and gets enormous satisfaction from her achievements,but she hates sharing her private life and emotions with the public. She is the polar opposite of the exhibitionist, which so many of our video-taped from birth, Face Booked and My Spaced youngsters seem to be these days. Ana Ivanovich is also delightful, but in a totally opposite way. She seems modest and circumspect, but has a more open and ebullient personality. I hope she achieves great success in the future and can handle the scrutiny that will surely come her way.

Posted by highpockets 06/09/2007 at 06:37 PM

All I can say is never "assume" anything about a person because you just don't know.

Another revealing, inspiring piece, Pete.

Posted by Tennis Truth Patrol 06/09/2007 at 06:51 PM

Sweet Pete in the clutch, saving his best work for the final. Terrific. That was the Sampras 1999 Wimbledon final of tennis blog posts.

Posted by Andrea 06/09/2007 at 06:59 PM

Great piece Pete.
I've always been a fan of Justine, knowing about her mother's death, father's estrangement and all. The only time I questioned her character as a person was when she withdrew at AO last year.
She's been through so much and is a great champion. For that she has my utmost respect.
I was tired of Mary Carillo nagging about the fact that Justine didn't attend the ITF banquet. During the commentary she kept praising Federer for showing up and really putting down Justine for not. You just can't make conclusions when you don't know everything.

Posted by FoT 06/09/2007 at 07:16 PM

Well I've been off line most of the day (had too much to do).. But first, Samantha and all the other "Justine" fans - congratulations! I knew she would win this match and after reading her interview, I guess I'll have to add her to my growing list of "favorite players" because they also like Roger. Look at who Justine is pulling for tomorrow in the men's final:

Q. Are you going to stay for the men's final, and who would you pick?

JUSTINE HENIN: I hope I can stay, yeah. I would love to watch the match. So we'll see. And I would love Federer to win, but I'm not quite sure that's going to happen, so...

I wish, I wish, really. But the best will win. They are both great players, great champions. But what I saw from Nadal is pretty strong.

Posted by jj 06/09/2007 at 07:30 PM

Sad. One can imagine how horrid it was when it counted, since the definition of reconciliation is that it's too much to ask of her brother to go out & celebrate w/her sister after such a Huge Triumph when he owns his own business - a bar. But all the best who so richly deserves Everything she's Dedicated Her Life to achieve.

Posted by Tim 06/09/2007 at 07:41 PM

Bob , today was in fact a day when all justine had to do was 'show up' to use Serena's phrase... Ana was overwhelmed by the occassion, and had the yips starting in the second game... Justine was Justine but she didnt have to do much thats for sure.... another sad Slam final from a quality, excitement point of view... say what u want but it dont make the WTA look too good thats for sure...

i love the way Ana owned her nerves and just smiled, and I cant believe what she said about Sharapova! Samantha posted on another thread, something about how Ana smiles and laughs and Sharapova doesnt talke to anyone..what's she got that I dont got?? lol love it!

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 07:57 PM

Tim: She had great serving, and kept Ana on the move. Ana's forehand isn't nearly as good when she's moving, and Justine really kept her moving. The reality is Ana didn't have much in the way of shots to tee off on. Justine kept it deep and kept changing the pace, spin, and moved her around; and in the middle of the second set she started crushing the ball. It's difficult to evaluate to some extent, since we really don't know what it's like for such players to deal with each other's shots, but it's clear that none of the players have much success dealing with Justine's serve or groundstrokes, and Ana's serving really wasn't a factor, statistically speaking. Trying to get the ball by Justine on clay is incredibly difficult; and we see player after player eventually hit a shot wide and/or long, or mess up trying to change direction, out of frustration. Ana has to keep it deep or Justine would come in a crush it, and when you have to keep it deep, some of them will go out. I just watched it again, and it was very dominating.

Posted by TNnis 06/09/2007 at 08:12 PM

I've never been a Justine fan at all, but like many other posters have said, I became one today. The tennis was as flawless as ever, but it seemed to be delivered by a totally different woman.

Posted by sophie 06/09/2007 at 08:13 PM

I'm a cynic. Would Justine have effected a reconciliation with her family if she'd still been married? Now she wants "family" in her box at the first GS without him there?

Posted by TNnis 06/09/2007 at 08:14 PM

Oh, and Pete, thanks for the insightful post - I loved it!

Posted by Tim 06/09/2007 at 08:29 PM

Bob please today was aboutt nerves, not strategy... Justine was sublime, but clearly, Ana gifted her many many points through nervous errors, lets just face facts... a win is a win, too bad it was such a dud match...

Posted by Underspin 06/09/2007 at 08:35 PM

Justine does seem a little more gracious open person and perhaps it is the family reconciliation and getting through a divorce. Interesting how people are so judgmental of player's behavior now and repeat old stories over and over, like the hand with Serena. How old are these girls when they are on center stage? However, even she and Serena seemed to be warmer to eachother. Why is it the public must continue to judge on the past? Certainly people themselves have made public or private mistakes in their younger years and don't want to be constantly harrassed about it. Congrats to Justine for being able to filter out all the noise and focusing on winning the third in a row. Ana was a great gracious competitor (and better sport than Jelena), congrats to tennis to having such a charming addition compared to the media divas like Sharapova or should I say Mother Theresa.

Posted by vanfan 06/09/2007 at 08:49 PM

Justine's win today was nearly as moving as her first title at Roland Garros. Back then the story was her promise to her dying mother that one day she would win the French Open. Today, newly reconciled, she shares with her family in attendance for the very first time, victory at a major.

Lovely post Pete. From the onset of the match I felt that this moment was greater than 3 RG's in a row.

Posted by Samantha 06/09/2007 at 09:15 PM

Sorry a little off topic. Ruth some infro for you, Wimbledon's seating will be based upon the ranking plus a player's results on grass in the last two year will be considered. In 2005, Venus was ranked 12, but was seated 7 based upon her grass court record. She won in 2005, so that will be taken into consideration and she should be seated which might prevent her from running into a top player early in the tourney. Go Justine!

Posted by Mike 06/09/2007 at 09:19 PM

Equal prize money for women? Gimme a break. This match and most of the women's matches during the French just go to show the huge disparity in talent, guts, and determination between the men and women. Not to mention the vastly larger TV/Advertising revenues generated by the men.

Equal does not always mean fair.

Posted by Ruth 06/09/2007 at 10:23 PM

Miguel: So, you don't want little girls to emulate the "rocket groundstrokes" of some 6ft Cyber-Ova? Then, maybe those little girls shouldn't be emulating Henin who, as I've said before, regularly lets loose with some of the fastest and hardest strokes of any player in the WTA Tour. One of her fans even cited service speeds to support this point recently. And a passage from our friend Steve next door, which I read recently and will reproduce below, illustrates what most people who look at Justine's game with their eyes wide open see...and appreciate.

Posted by Ruth 06/09/2007 at 10:30 PM

Her's the passage from Steve's blog to which I was referring above:

Besides her (Henin's) movement and competence from every part of the court, there’s her pure, somewhat shocking explosiveness. NBC did a super slo-mo close-up of her backhand today, and you could see the violence involved in it, particularly at the contact point, where her whole body is in extremis. Two of us in the room had the same reaction: “How does she do that?” (from "paris:Stories of the Day" in The Wrap by Steve Tignor)

Try not to ignore the obvious, people! And try not to be too shocked by an athlete who has power as one of her main weapons.

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 10:53 PM

Her game's pretty,
It's so pretty,
And so witty, and gritty, with might,
That I pity, any girl who isn't her, tonight,
Her game's dashing,
It's so dashing,
When she's smashing, the dashing I feel,
And so pretty,
That I hardly can believe it's real,
See the Belgian girl on each tennis day,
Hard, grass or clay,
What can that attractive game be?
Such a pretty pace
Such a pretty grace,
Such a pretty ace
Such a pretty thee,
It's so stunning,
When she's running,
And it's dashing
And slashing
And free,
And so Pretty,
I'm so glad,
It's here on my TV

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 11:17 PM

I have always trumpeted her incredible power, which is there in match after match for us to see. I get tired of Carillo and others talking about how she doesn't have the power of the big women, so "uses her power" better. That's a ridiculous statement. All world-class athletes have pretty much the same perfect timing as to power, whether in golf, tennis, or anything else.

Power is generally correlated with size, but only very generally. Many small people are much stronger than much larger people, and smaller muscles of one person might be far stronger than larger muscles of another person. All of these athletes have freakish power for women, but Justine has freakish power even for world class tennis players, and her shorter arms give her better leverage than a taller player. It's just astonishing how hard she can hit the ball. Her huge inside out forehands are in my opinion among the fastest in the history of women's tennis, on average. She coils her body, and comes off the ground as she hits them and uncoils her body, arms, and hands with such perfect timing and unleashed power that I simply watch them in awe. She can hit them from the baseline and blow them by a player who is ready on the opposite baseline in the middle of the court. She did it a couple of times today. When she gets a shorter ball, it's common for an opponent simply to stand and watch her hit it, rather than even moving.

She can do a slightly slower but just as effective stroke with her winner rolling backhand. She only hit a few today, but they generally ended points. Whether it's down the line, inside to the opponent's forehand, or rolling wide to the backhand, it's just an amazing shot. That's the one which NBC captured in slow-motion Thursday, and the one they did in slow-motion today.

She can do it all. I've never seen a player in history who has anywhere near the pure talent that she displays.

Posted by Ruth 06/09/2007 at 11:24 PM

Thanks for the Wimby information, Samantha.

Posted by triadi 06/09/2007 at 11:34 PM

I used to and still am a fan of Monica Seles. When she no longer plays, I was in limbo until I found Justine to root for since 2001. Back then, she was the underdog while the Williams dominated. Everytime she plays, I become really nervous. Whenever she wins her match, she makes my day, really. Today, I have my day after watching her win and all the stuff happening around her. I don't care if the the match goes easily like this (6-1, 6-2). The easier the better as long as she wins. GO Justine! A lot more people adore you than those who jealous of you.

Posted by Ruth 06/09/2007 at 11:57 PM

Just saw your last post, Bob. And all I can say is that I hope that you pass this word on to those posters who write as if Justine overpowers :) her opponents and wins matches with only (or mainly) the beauty and finesse of her strokes.

Posted by Bob 06/09/2007 at 11:58 PM

triadi: I'm with you. I'm not interested in anything except comfortable blow-outs whenever Justine plays. The hell with tight, exciting matches. I get tired of TV wondering why we never have competitive matches at RG in the women's final, as if it were fate or something. Justine is the reason we don't have competitive matches. When she's really firing, and at RG she inevitably is; she will blow out anyone on the tour; and has.

I don't like to see Roger struggle, either; but Justine is more of my favorite than Federer, perhaps because of her small size, and/or because a few other guys can hit most of the shots Federer can hit (though not nearly as good), but no female player in history can come close to the total game Justine possesses and displays. Amelie can hit shots which are similar technically, but the explosive power, movement and aggression Justine displays is beyond anything Amelie has ever had.

Roger and Justine are two from the same mold, in my view. He'll win more than she will, because he doesn't have any size disadvantage, and he's also better even by men's standards than she is by women's standards. He's clearly the best player in history. Anyone who watches him play should realize that. And Justine is the best player in the history of the women's game. She'll never come close to the achievements of the greatest, for various reasons, but nobody in history has played the kind of tennis she plays.

Perhaps it was Matt who posted he had seen her in 1999. I never saw her until 2001, but immediately I thought "Who in the world is this?" For the first time in my life, I was watching women's tennis the way it was meant to be played. If whoever invented tennis watched Roger and Justine, that person would nod and say, "I can't imagine what else a player could do to show off my game."

It's always been the tennis which has captured my devotion, whether with Connors, Edberg, Graf, or Goolagong. But then along came Roger and Justine, and they swept everyone aside in my feelings. I just can't watch them enough. They can't win easily enough for me. I tape her quarters, semis, and finals in slams. I love to watch her play tennis so much that I re-play them now and then.

It doesn' matter to me what kind of off court life she has, or who's in it; and never has. It only matters that she plays tennis so beautifully that I'm not sure we'll see anything like it again after she's gone.

Posted by Bob 06/10/2007 at 12:14 AM

Ruth: J McEnroe is pretty clear on how powerful she is. One of my favorite aspects of him is that he is totally captivated by Justine's game, and it's apparent from some of the comments he makes. When she hit's her inside out forehand, or rolls a backhand winner, he often makes the kind of comments people make about Federer, and constantly calls her the female Federer.

Anyone who watches her play and doesn't realize how powerful she is must be blind. They don't keep statistics on groundstokes, but her serving statistics show power comparable to the biggest servers, when in fact she has to curb her serving pace because of her height, to get it in the court because of the angles. She has no such limitations on the short balls in rallies, and the way she unloads on those just awes me. She often comes off the ground to hit them. As with the backhand, slow-motion of these shots is a marvel to watch, and displays unleashed power like no other player in history. She puts everything into these shots. When you talk about leaving it all on the court, she does it with shots which are so intense and full of aggression that I sit spellbound. Like Federer, (and several guys), if you start trying to trade forehands with her, she often just keeps stepping up the pace and angle to see who cracks first, and if you do return one of her inside out forehands, wait for the next one, since it will be a rocket.

Posted by Samantha 06/10/2007 at 07:14 AM

I just love the people who come in here with the nonsense that the women's matches are boring and that all Justine had to do was show up.These same people enjoy it and come in here and brag when their favorite destroys their opponents. They want to take away from Justine's moment any say she had to do very little to win. They forget that she had the toughest draw, Serena, Jankovic to get through before she made it to the final and she did it in straight sets. She was awesome, great, a true warrior, so to you know where with these people. And Carillo needs to put a lid on it, she has been on Justine's back for years. I can't stand her. She's a jealous you know what who never achieve anything in tennis and enjoys bashing the players who were better then she was, which is most of the WTA. I'm still on a high and so is Justine! Take that haters! Go Justine!

Posted by Samantha 06/10/2007 at 07:18 AM

Oops, should read, and not any. Leave my post alone ELPS.

Posted by fedfan 06/10/2007 at 07:51 AM

Samantha, you have put into words what I have felt about Carillo for years, and my irritation with her is compounded by her incessant inane yammering during points. I would watch with the mute button on, but I like to hear the sound of the ball hitting the rackets and the player's footsteps (I also hate Sharapova's and the Williams sisters' grunts). Carillo might be trying to pander to the American audience's supposed jingoism by dissing other nationalities, but I don't think tennis is going to build audience share by having Carillo as one of its dominant voices. Time to put some new blood in the broadcaster's box, in my opinion.


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