Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Justine, the Sequel
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Justine, the Sequel 09/23/2009 - 1:59 PM


Say this for Justine Henin: She’s very decisive about being indecisive. Ranked No. 1 in the world and about to defend her most beloved title, the French Open, she called a press conference out of the blue last spring and retired. For good. A year and a half later, with only slightly more warning, she called a press conference out of the blue and said she was coming back, that the “long personal journey” was over, that the competitive fire had been rekindled.

Say this also for Justine Henin: She’s as dramatic as she is private. We don’t know why she retired in the first place, we don’t know anything about her long personal journey, other that it was wrapped up in about 15 months, and we don’t know why she decided to take the full-time plunge again so quickly. A year ago she couldn’t stand the tour for even one more day; now she’s talking about playing in the 2012 Olympics.

The most obvious reason, from an outsider’s perspective, for Henin’s return is that she turned on the TV the other day, saw Kim Clijsters holding the U.S. Open trophy over her head, and knew what she had to do (i.e. grab it out of her hands). Henin admitted that her countrywoman’s comeback did motivate her. But she hinted that the initial spark came when she watched Roger Federer complete his career Grand Slam at the French Open. It makes sense: Henin loves Paris, as we know; she would have loved the “beautiful emotions” (that's how I imagine her describing it) of a drama-filled moment like that; she’s been compared to Federer for years; and she’s missing just one piece from her own career Slam, a Wimbledon crown.

Is it annoying that Henin and Clijsters both used the word “retirement” instead, of, say, “sabbatical”? It certainly would have been more accurate. But when they called it quits, they probably couldn’t see themselves playing tennis again in the foreseeable future—it requires everything you have, and at times it must leave you with nothing left to give. When Clijsters retired to get married and have children at such a young age, a Belgian woman I talked to at the time told me she wasn’t surprised. It’s what you do there, she said. (I offer this only as an observation, not as ironclad evidence of anything.) And one thing we know about Henin is that half-measures aren’t her style. As she showed when she retired against Amelie Mauresmo in the Australian Open final a few years ago, she’s an all or nothing kind of player, and person.

There aren’t many precedents for extended sabbaticals from tennis, and the WTA’s rules don’t make room for them. Maybe they’ll become a trend. As I wrote in an ESPN post on the subject yesterday, we’ve spent the last year or two hearing about how Venus and Serena Williams had done it the right way all along, that their “outside interests” helped them stay interested in the game, that all the other women were robots bound to short circuit. Now Clijsters has come back, beaten both Venus and Serena, and won the U.S. Open. If Henin does the same thing next year, should we change our tune and say that the Belgian system—go hard, burn out, retire, come back—is the right way? No, the real reason the Williamses were successful has nothing to do with their design skills or cameo appearances. They succeeded because, from skipping the juniors to not worrying about their rankings as pros, they conducted their careers exactly how they saw fit, regardless of other people’s opinions in the sport. If Clijsters and Henin remain at the top of the game during their second careers, we can only credit them for doing the same thing. There is no “right” way of being a tennis champion. Every one of them is, to some extent, an anomaly, a freak.

What matters is that tennis has two of those champions back—the WTA may even be the hot tour going into 2010. It’s only right that this era of women's tennis, one that will be remembered first and foremost for the Williamses, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, and now Kim Clijsters, gets to run its full course. While Henin likely won’t be able to match Clijsters’ immediate level of success, she was a reliable champion during her career, one who won at least one major per season from 2003 to ’07, and one who competes well on all surfaces.

But whatever her results, one thing that’s virtually guaranteed is that Henin will be a pleasure to watch. The swooping backhand, the lethal forehand, the dervish-like mobility, the look of frozen fear in her eyes, and her ability, on most occasions, to overcome that fear: There’s no way she could keep all that retired for long.


Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 02:16 PM

Justine Henin

Record - 493 wins 107 losses 41 titles(7 Slams included)

Australian Open - 2004
French Open - 2003,2005,2006,2007
Wimbledon - 2001(V Williams) and 2006(Mauresmo) Finals
United States Open - 2003 and 2007
Sony Ericsson Championships - 2006 and 2007

Last WTA player to make all the Slams in one year(2006)

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 02:26 PM

Along with Justine returning, Carlos Rodriguez will be her coach.

Indeed, Justine's return just gave WTA another boost for 2010 after Kim returned in Cincinnati and winning the USO a few months later. As M-Life posted yesterday in Pete's thread, who is going to be the first young player to break through the Belgians, Williamses, and Maria strangehold to win a Slam or make the finals of one. Serbians have stepped back in 2009(Ana since 2008 French Open), and Russians,except Maria, can not cross the finish line(only exception was Svetlana at the French against Dinara after surviving Serena in the QF).

Posted by greenhopper 09/23/2009 at 02:33 PM

Thanks, Steve. This should do well as an anti-WTA bashing referral piece. Specially, this bit

No, the real reason the Williamses were successful has nothing to do with their design skills or cameo appearances. They succeeded because, from skipping the juniors to not worrying about their rankings as pros, they conducted their careers exactly how they saw fit, regardless of other people’s opinions in the sport. If Clijsters and Henin remain at the top of the game during their second careers, we can only credit them for doing the same thing. There is no “right” way of being a tennis champion. Every one of them is, to some extent, an anomaly, a freak.

Posted by pc 09/23/2009 at 02:33 PM

The Little Backhand that Quit

Posted by BillyBob 09/23/2009 at 02:36 PM

For this past decade I'd rate them:
1 S. Williams
2 Henin, mostly for weeks at #1,just barely over,
3 V. Williams
-followed by:
4 Sharapova
5 Clijsters -suddenly moved up.
6 Kuznetsova
7 Mauresmo
8 No one I can think of without a slide rule.
-all except Mauresmo could potentially win more slams.

Posted by daryl 09/23/2009 at 02:43 PM

"reliable" not in those seven years clearly the best player, oh maybe called the dominating player. "Henin likely won’t be able" to win the Austrilian, no not with oh the Williams sisters there and now Kim. "The most obvious reason,saw Kim Clijsters holding the U.S. Open trophy over her head" Maybe if you really did care about other tour, tennis rumblings could be heard of her returning some time before Kim ever won the trophy. And maybe she did say "sabbatique" she speaks french you know. "the look of frozen fear in her eyes" ya great description of a former champion. Welcome back Justine, it looks like nothing has changed from the way sportswriters will cover you.

Posted by london 09/23/2009 at 02:43 PM

i hope justine gets a grand slam or two in her return, itd be a shame if she didnt. i hope she plays her 2007 form too! it was pretty snappy stuff!

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 02:48 PM

Very good list of the players in order as I would have had the same order. Did Svetlana move over Amelie because she won the French this year? If it had not been for that, I would have Amelie over her.

Serena: 2003,2005,2007,2009 AO, 2002 FO, 2002,2003,2009 W, and 1999,2002,2008 USO
Justine: 2004 AO, 2003,2005,2006,2007 FO, and 2003,2007 USO
Venus: 2000,2001,2005,2007,2008 W and 2000,2001 USO
Maria: 2008 AO, 2004 W, and 2006 USO
Kim: 2005 and 2009 USO
Svetlana: 2009 FO and 2004 USO
Amelie: 2006 AO and 2006 W

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 02:59 PM

Beginning at 2000 Wimbledon, the 7 ladies listed by Billy Bob and Jennifer Capriati has won 36 out of the last 38 Slams(only exceptions are Ana Ivanovic at 2008 French Open and Anastasia Myskina at 2004 French Open)

Posted by joe_can_bike 09/23/2009 at 03:00 PM

No love for Davenport? She won the 2000 Australian Open and about 2 dozen other tournaments in the Oughts. And I think her loss to Venus at Wimbledon was her greatest battle ever, too bad she came up short.

Posted by april 09/23/2009 at 03:24 PM

I think Master Ace and Billy Bob's choices are right for the noughties. I think with the return of the Belgians and the coming up of the younger players (Oudin and esp. Wozniacki after her final run) the 2010 ladies tour has the most depth in it since the arrival of MaSha in 04. It will be interesting to see how many 3 set GS finals there will be considering there hasn't been one since Amelie-Justine W 06! (thats 13 slams! :O) Also hoping for at least 3 slam finals without a Williams as much as I love Venus.

Oh Justine its good to have you back

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 09/23/2009 at 03:41 PM

Thanks Steve,

I agree with your thoughts Justine was a pleasure to watch.When one considers her frame and size she did match it with the heavy weights and hard shot players on the tour.One of the things she has in her game is Variety.Can hang on the baseline but also is a very good net and volley player.These days of lot of the players in my mind are too one dimensional.Her b/hand a thing of beauty.

One will never know the True reason for her return.She was a very private person.Though I did notice before she quit the game she was a bit more open with her feelings.

Can she match it with Kim and her outstanding success,with only playing a handful of tournaments and winning a GS Title?

That question and more will be answered I guess when she picks up her racquet and returns to the tour next year.

Posted by Billy Bob 09/23/2009 at 03:47 PM

Master Ace:

You are correct. I'm far too generous to Svety for her recent success. Thank you for the correction.

6 Mauresmo
7 Kuznetsova
8 I'm leaning toward the end of Davenport's career, but the math is a little fuzzy.

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 03:53 PM

Good question on 3 set finals at the Slams especially the ATP had 3 5 set finals this year. I am interested to see how Melanie adapt to the tour with playing a full schedule next year.

Unfortunately, the WS stopped Lindsay's efforts in 2005 especially at the Wimbledon final you mentioned. Lindsay was a good player who won over 700 matches and won 3 Slams and an Olympic Gold medal in 1996.

Good question about Justine winning a GS title within a short amount of time. I would not be shocked if she won in Melbourne but I am looking for her to continue her dominance at Roland Garros.

Billy Bob,
Lindsay did win 3 Slams(98 USO, 99 W, and 2000 AO)

Posted by Ivo 09/23/2009 at 03:55 PM

Serena vs. Henin. Well the statistics are totally clear: Serena by far the better player. But I am from the old school, really really old school. Serena was the child who introduced (along with players such as Monica Seles) what the women's tour is all about today: power, aggression,self-confidence, more power, more shrieking. Of course with Serena it's also precision and an incredible competitive spirit - but hey, doesn't yelling Sharapova do exactly that? Or the other upcoming youngsters....i am so bored with this stereotype of a player - effective but eye's displeasing - after all tennis is "a GAME" - not a bulldozing contest.
And Henin, Henin reminds me of the fact that tennis, more than anything, is a beautiful "GAME". With her it's not about physical predispositions that some have and others don't. She's different. She is small, very very small. She doesn't shriek, she is not imposing physically the way the Serena's, or Sharapova's or Safina's are. But she plays and plays wonderfully. She's been for a long time the only female tennis athlete that I enjoyed watching for the pleasure of watching a game of tennis.
Welcome back, Justine, welcome back.

Posted by Ivo 09/23/2009 at 03:58 PM

to add to my sentimental foolishness:
just look at the picture in this article? Isn't there something incredibly pleasing about the way that lady hits a ball and moves around the court?

Posted by darthhelmethead 09/23/2009 at 04:06 PM

JUSTINE! I love that girl.

Posted by tommy 09/23/2009 at 04:14 PM

How can you say Serena is by far the better player?
In the last 25 majors, which goes back over 6 years, Serena has not won a major if Justine was in the draw. Has not beaten Henin in a major.
That's going back to mid 2003.
Henin has won the most majors since then, plus an Olympic gold.

I don't know why she retired then unretired, but when she was at the 2008 AO, no one called Serena the best player or the favorite.

Posted by WorldTennis 09/23/2009 at 04:15 PM

I stopped liking Justine, the day she stopped Serena from serving by holding her hand up and then saying nothing when referree asked about it. She is not sportive enough to be a champion. And her actions against Amelie, not completing the match, only proved more of that. She never liked anybody and never spoke good of any other players. I don't like her a bit.

Posted by julietearjerky 09/23/2009 at 04:18 PM

Do u think Hingis will try another comeback?

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 04:49 PM

Good research about Serena not winning a Slam with Justine in the draw since 2003 Wimbledon. Since Justine won her first Slam at 2003 French Open stopping the Serena Slam in the semifinals, her next 4 majors were won without Serena in the draw(2003 USO, 2004 AO, 2005 FO, and 2006 FO). Therefore, the Serena winning without Justine or vice versa can be debated. In 2007, Justine defeated Serena in the QF in 3 consecutive Slams winning 2 of them(FO and USO).

Posted by M-life 09/23/2009 at 05:50 PM

Master Ace-

Thanks for the call-out. I have a 2 part question for you- 1- When is Hingis' suspension over? And 2- Who do you think will make the a comeback first, Martina, or Bob, back on the blog, with his 10 paragraph "ode to Justine- greatest backhand since God" dissertation? My bet is that it will be Bob. I'm just SO expecting it any minute.

Posted by Samantha elin 09/23/2009 at 05:57 PM

Go Justine! I love saying that again. Welcome back to the Queen!

Posted by M-life 09/23/2009 at 05:58 PM


Please stop.

Posted by Bojan 09/23/2009 at 06:05 PM

Tingor, this is amazing blog. I really like it. I absolutely agree with everything you say.

Posted by fedfan 09/23/2009 at 06:12 PM

World Tennis, she held up her hand, Serena served anyway, and served a fault. Serena then said she should be allowed another serve, because Justine's motion distracted her. I play old person's doubles, but if someone whom I was playing did that to me, I wouldn't be too eager to give him/her another serve either.

I'm delighted that we get to see her beautiful, fluid game once again.

Nice post, Steve.

Posted by janimal 09/23/2009 at 06:32 PM

fedfan, i actually rewatched that French Open moment just a couple weeks ago. from what i remember, justine held up her hand in the middle of serena's service motion. i don't think you would notice if your opponent was holding up their hand if your eyes were on the ball and in the middle of your service motion.

i would agree with you if serena knew that justine's hand was up, but i don't think that was the case. also, if i remember correctly, serena asked justine to tell the umpire that she did raise her hand, and she didn't say a thing or denied that she did.

regardless, this was a good article and i think that justine would be a good addition to the tour. she is a great countpoint to the current power game.

Posted by M-life 09/23/2009 at 07:03 PM


Justine is not and never has been a finesse/ counter puncher player. Make no mistake, she plays a power game just as any women you care or can mention. She's just small in her physical size and moves with with incredible quickness. She also transitions from defense to offense better than anyone. But from her serve to forehand to backhand to every part of her game, its all take control of point and finish quick. Justine is a quick-strike power player through and through.

Posted by gliciouss 09/23/2009 at 07:22 PM

Henin has bad many players do from time to time...she does not strike me as one of the friendly ones on tour...serena is better than henin...

Posted by PaniniLuncher 09/23/2009 at 07:44 PM

With only 2 days after her return announcement, I feel I was still in honeymoon! I am so happy Justine Henin returns - something that I have been desperately waiting in the last 16 months.

I still clearly remember that particular day when Henin announced her retirement. That day my spirit crumbled, seeing her picture with her coach Rodriguez on a white desk during a press conference. Her content and smiling face announcing she retired for good. Why o why.

That day, 16 months ago, I stopped caring for woman tennis.

Then, like what I had wished all these long, there it is Justine again, next to Rodriguez the coach on a white desk during another press conference. Smiling and content, announcing she is coming back. O my o my ...

It is so weird, like a dream, but very happy nonetheless.

Posted by andrea 09/23/2009 at 08:06 PM

well, i thought when henin retired that it would finally be jankovic's time to shine (she has an abysmal H2H against henin and with henin gone it seemed that jelena could maneuver her way to a GS)

the sad news is that jelena has been outmaneuvered by almost everyone she has played since.

henin has always been the little spitfire that could and i am pleased to read that it may have been roger's FO win this year that rekindled the flame for her. i hope she does come back and win wimbledon.

Posted by janimal 09/23/2009 at 08:06 PM

M-life, sorry, that's not what i meant when i said she was a counterpoint to the power game. i know very well that she was aggrsesive and had the power as the others in the game.

counterpoint wasn't referring to her game, but rather who she was as a player.

i agree that there haven't been that many players that can transition from defense to offense than justine. i guess i should have said, she was a great counterpoint to the one-dimensional power game. i was reffering to the quickness and variety of her game that she has that isn't really seen in the top players. that, and one of the sweetest one-handed backhands. sorry if i was not clear with my first statement.

Posted by Master Ace 09/23/2009 at 08:16 PM

Think Martina suspension should be up very shortly if not already. Mentioned Bob on Pete's post on his return since Justine has decided to play again.

Posted by TennisFan2 09/23/2009 at 08:20 PM

I have to say I have mixed feelings about this "retirement" business. There should be some sort of rule or penalty for "retiring" and returning. Clijsters had a distinct advantage when she returned at the end of the slam season while other players on tour had just worked their way through eight months of globe trotting.

IMO it's just a way to get around the drudgery of playing day in and day out while you heal injuries and take care of your head. Say what you want about the Williams Sisters but minus Indian Wells and mailing in some tournaments they've stayed in the game, followed the WTA rules and put in their time.

Serena and Vee can handle the return of Kim and Justine as they are in a position to really manage their schedules. I feel for the Safinas, Wozniakis and the rest of the women that have played their hearts outs and will have to face Clijsters and Henin coming in with a ridiculously advantageous seeds.

Posted by a-tennislover 09/23/2009 at 09:02 PM

Justine is a cheater, we don't need her!
(French Open, never forget!)

Posted by a-tennislover 09/23/2009 at 09:12 PM

The players should get extended time off. Maybe after you've been on tour for 3+ years you could get a few months off without penalty. It may help in the long run.

And, it's not fair to people that come to see a player's "last match" (fairwell tours, gifts, tears, etc.), then they re-appear 6 months, or a year later. Be truthful and just say you need a little time away from the tour.

Posted by Alek 09/23/2009 at 09:21 PM

I like this blog a lot.

Posted by svelterogue 09/23/2009 at 09:23 PM

i knew that i could "count on" you, steve, to write an even-handed article about justine's return, a return, which, i must add, tickles me pink. i was crushed when she announced her retirement last year --- i was in belgium at the time and saw the press conference live. she looked calm and serene at that time; she was very sure of what she was doing. but i have missed her presence on the tour.

now the heavyweights are all in the mix. all the wannabe number one's since her time --- ana ivanovic, jelena, dinara... this will be a true test of each girl's abilities at this point in time.

allez justine! komaan kim!

Posted by Sam 09/23/2009 at 09:36 PM

"But whatever her results, one thing that’s virtually guaranteed is that Henin will be a pleasure to watch. The swooping backhand, the lethal forehand, the dervish-like mobility, the look of frozen fear in her eyes, and her ability, on most occasions, to overcome that fear: There’s no way she could keep all that retired for long."

Well said, Steve. I'm so glad that she'll be returning to the WTA.

Posted by Shadow Puppet 09/23/2009 at 10:30 PM

Although an interesting thought, we shouldn't expect Hingis to follow in the mix. She recently stated in an interview that she basically can't match the current competition and that she would have retired anyway due to her early exits from her last tournaments. Besides, Champions won't compete for the hell of it. They want to WIN and if they don't believe they can, then they stay away from the game.

Posted by linex 09/24/2009 at 12:06 AM

A great post as usual Steve. I also hope to see Justine play again with her usual style and determination. I love her topspin shots and that backhand of hers.

I wish Martina Hingis could return too. She is older than Henin and not as fit as her so I guess it is not likely that she decides to play again.

Posted by abbey 09/24/2009 at 12:29 AM

"the look of frozen fear in her eyes"

bingo! she did always have that look.

Posted by rg.nadal (welcome back, Justine) 09/24/2009 at 01:54 AM

Great article. I was a Kim fan from the beginning and started liking Henin a lot over the course of years. Tough for fans like me who would be torn between cheering for both!

Posted by suresh 09/24/2009 at 02:02 AM

Steve, which tournament was this photo taken at ? Amazing : Both feet in the air with 4 sets of shadows dancing ! It could only be a Justine or a Roger forehand !!!

Posted by MANS 09/24/2009 at 03:22 AM

Australian Open – 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009
French Open - 2002
Wimbledon – 2002, 2003, 2009
United States Open – 1999, 2002, 2009
Sony Ericsson Championships - 2001

Posted by mans 09/24/2009 at 03:29 AM

Australian Open – 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009
French Open - 2002
Wimbledon – 2002, 2003, 2009
United States Open – 1999, 2002, 2009
Sony Ericsson Championships - 2001

Posted by MANS 09/24/2009 at 03:35 AM


Posted by yrtreyt 09/24/2009 at 04:22 AM


Posted by Corrie 09/24/2009 at 07:52 AM

I love this piece Steve, and I loved Ivo's comments too.
I don't feel I know much about Justine the person, except I think Steve got it right when he said she's an all or nothing type, perhaps rather black and right in her views. She was certainly adamant in public that she did the right thing in the AO final by retiring, though not too many others saw it like that. She jumps right in, it seems, without a second thought.

But whatever, I just love watching her play. A hundred times more interesting than the screeching bashers. Women's tennis might once again get interesting for the right reasons, the enjoyment of the play.

Posted by Corrie 09/24/2009 at 07:54 AM

right should have been white.

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2009 at 08:21 AM

No arguments from me except I would have said 2 Olympic Gold Medal in doubles for Serena. In 2000, Venus and Lindsay played singles for the USA. Also, you reminded me to find my WS post from weeks back on their accomplishments. Finally, did you mean to post Venus at 3:29 AM and not repeat Serena's due to comments at 3:35 AM. Now, posters can debate back and forth b/w Justine(Kim) and Serena(Venus).

Posted by Sher 09/24/2009 at 10:01 AM

Awesome article, Steve. I really like how you notice that "doing it my way" seems to be what helps these women be successful.

And your suggestion that Henin may be intrigued by the potential to win her own career slam is also neat.

Posted by Aneirin 09/24/2009 at 10:29 AM

My Sony Ericsson tickets hav just increased their value! I couldn't be happier now that I get to see her play again!

I will be immensely happy to see her not just in person,but on TV. She plays tennis (and so does Roger) in the way that makes my heart and sould happy.

Posted by vv_varaiya 09/24/2009 at 10:47 AM

In my dreams
I have seen
The return of Queen Justine

The Moxy Lady is back! The apex of men's and women's tennis is represented by Roger Federer and Justine Henin. Beauty, elegance, grit, power, subtlety, finesse and competitive spirit that are unmatched when compared against any era.


Posted by Ben 09/24/2009 at 11:46 AM

I was just watching some early video of Serena and was reminded of what an amazing athlete she used to be. 1999-2003 Serena could have dominated any sport you care to name. Fast-forward to 2009 and it is painful to watch her lugging around so much extra weight. And she has won 3 of the last 5 slams! It's frustrating when an athlete with transcendent abilities settles for mere greatness. Perhaps the image of fat, drunk Babe Ruth swatting home runs adds to his legend for some people, but to me it's an indictment of the competition. It can't be the pinnacle of athletic achievement if it can be done by a tipsy tub. In the same way, Jumbo Serena decreases my opinion of the current WTA level. Would a Jumbo Roger have 15 slams? Would he have 10?

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2009 at 12:35 PM

Serena Williams
Titles - 34
Slams - 11 (Australian Open 2003,2005,2007,2009 - French Open 2002 - Wimbledon 2002,2003,2009 - United States Open 1999,2002,2008)
Slam Final Losses - 3 (V Williams 2001 United States Open, 2008 Wimbledon and Sharapova 2004 Wimbledon)

Venus Williams
Titles - 41
Slams - 7 (Wimbledon 2000,2001,2005,2007,2009 and United States Open 2000,2001)
Slam Final Losses - 7 (Hingis 1997 United States Open and S Williams 2002 French Open,2002 Wimbledon,2002 United States Open,2003 Australian Open,2003 Wimbledon,2009 Wimbledon)

Double titles - 16 (10 Slams):
Australian 2001,2003,2009 - French Open 1999 - Wimbledon 2000,2002,2008,2009 - United States Open 1999,2009

Mixed titles - 4
Serena(2) with Max Mirnyi 1998 Wimbledon and United States Open
Venus(2) with Justin Gimelstob 1998 Australian Open and French Open

Posted by Syd 09/24/2009 at 01:04 PM

Welcome back Justine, indeed.

Posted by Syd 09/24/2009 at 01:15 PM

oh, and forgot to say, terrific writing Steve, thanks.

Posted by JAG 09/24/2009 at 02:11 PM

I had stopped watching WTA ever since she retired. I'm looking forward to watching her aesthetically pleasing game again.

Posted by Chris Thomas 09/24/2009 at 03:28 PM

Why has Henin come back ? Why did she retire ? I am very suspicious of drugs being used. In the semifinal against Venus at the US Open in 2007, her fastest serve was 117 mph. There are some men that can't serve that fast. Technique ? At 5 and a half feet tall, give me a break.

Keep in mind that even after retiring she had to show up at Roland Garros as the defending champion and was seen on the practice courts !

Okay, yes I don't like her. Her game is beautiful, but remember that incident with Serena at Roland Garros, when she denied holding her hand up in 2003.

Posted by Bob 09/24/2009 at 04:14 PM

It's clear to me that Kim and Justine were totally confident that they'd never want to play tennis again when they retired. And it's clear that they both missed it, and see that biological tennis clock ticking. It's just great to have them back, though I'm sure Kim isn't that happy about Justine coming back. Kim might have about 7 slams herself had it not been for Justine.

Posted by Samantha elin 09/24/2009 at 04:23 PM

Great post Bob, RG 2OO3 was six years ago, time to move on. Go Justine!

Posted by M-life 09/24/2009 at 05:05 PM

Okay- I appreciate that. My mistake for reading it wrong. Thanks for the clarification. Best.

Really? Darn, sorry I missed that. I would'a liked to read't I should'a known you might beat me to it. Bob..that guy... he really had some poignant observations and well thought remarks but man-oh-man...

Posted by Samantha elin 09/24/2009 at 06:15 PM

What made Justine so great was her ability to combine power, grace and beauty in one little package. A powerful serve for someone so little.

Posted by sally 09/24/2009 at 06:36 PM

does anyone think kim has come back for the money?
I don't know much about basketball in belgium, but
i can't imagine it pays anything close to the nba.
so kim would make much more than brian would working.
so brian quits basketball and kim takes up tennis again
and makes the millions brian will never make.

Posted by Tennis This 09/24/2009 at 07:38 PM

It probably won't be an easy comeback for Henin. Yes, she has marvelous tennis game, but does she have the heart and the patience to deal with all the media when she returns? Seems like the pressure might be too much for her. We'll see I guess.

Posted by Samantha Elin, (Supporter of Caro, Scandinavia's #1 and Justine. 09/24/2009 at 11:40 PM

Agree Sally.

Posted by Ade 09/24/2009 at 11:55 PM

I will always remember what Henin did to Amelie Mauresmo at the AO a few years back. Amelie was beating the heck out of her, and what did she do? Retire from a grand slam final!!!

Then she retires from tennis because she was again beaten so badly by Sharapova at the US Open.

Yes, credit to all the players who don't have to "retire" just because they have some down times (Williams sisters).

Although I wish her well, I don't see her coming back and breaking any records like Kim, that's for sure....because of her size, she's facing a lot more than she used to. The girls are stronger now, and some just as quick. She had better resign herself to making a slow comeback, or we may see her retire again soon.

Posted by Pat Kernan 09/25/2009 at 02:08 AM

If we're talking about a top 10 list from 1999-2009, I'd like to offer this one, keeping in mind I am considering with equal weight year-end ranking, average ranking position, slams won, slam consistency (# of QFs or better results), overall titles won, and non-slam final appearances:

1) Serena
2) Henin
3) Venus
4) Hingis
5) Davenport
6) Clijsters
7) Sharapova
8) Seles (1999-2002, 3 slam semis and eight quarterfinals, a bunch of other titles and tourney finals)
9) Mauresmo
10) Kuzzy

Hon. Ment.: Pierce, Capriati, Dementieva

Posted by jojo 09/25/2009 at 06:15 AM

22 is a normal age to have have a first child....Over 30 is not a normal age to have a first child....the rest of the world knows this....remember, she was engaged to Leyton Hewitt before she married.....anyway, Justine was looking for a hsuband after her divorce....maybe she broke up with someone...either way, it's not our business.....her tennis skills are.....and she certainly has out serena And Venus, you're gonna have you r hands filled! I remember watching Justine when she had just broken into the top was at the US Open on a side court......she FLEW through the air on volleys...tremendous leaping ability, like ballet....and that effortless topspin backhand, so consistant and reliable.....and the quickness....WOW

Posted by Master Ace 09/25/2009 at 09:11 AM

"Then she retires from tennis because she was again beaten so badly by Sharapova at the US Open"

Did you mean Australian Open?

Pat Kernan,
Not a bad list but take out their 1999 results and make your Top 10 from there. Hignis, Davenport, Seles, Capritati, and to a small degree that the WS did well in 1999.

Posted by Nichole 09/25/2009 at 11:00 AM

I am ecstatic that Justine is coming back. I felt a warmth of happiness rush over me when I was feeling very sad that day! YEAH JUSTINE

Posted by Ruth 09/25/2009 at 12:16 PM

" They [Venus and Serena] succeeded because, from skipping the juniors to not worrying about their rankings as pros, they conducted their careers exactly how they saw fit, regardless of other people’s opinions in the sport."

Thanks for pointing this out, Steve. I remember hearing one interviewer try to make Venus say that "their way" of doing things was the "right way" and that every player should follow their example. And, Venus, always sensible -- even wise -- firmly disagreed, saying the different paths work for different people.

I would still prefer that players would not so casually use the R word (retirement) when they should know that what they need or want is just a long or short break from the grind (whether the WTA allows it or not) and when their brains (and observing others) should inform them that wanting to return to the grind is a distinct possibility.

Maybe, they'll all learn. Note that even Davenport has not officially announced her second retirement, even though I guess that she might not play again.

Many would disagree, but I prefer the players who take their time before announcing their RETIREMENT!!! to make sure that their decision is the right one. See Sampras, Seles and, perhaps, Capriati? Rubin? et al.

Posted by PJC 09/25/2009 at 10:34 PM

How do you leave out Capriati from the past decade---#1, won 3 slams, in the 3 for almost 2 years running, top 10 for 4 years straight before injury foreced her aside. She surely ranks above Kuzy, Mauresmo, maybe even Clijsters..... Also, where is Davenport

"For this past decade I'd rate them:
1 S. Williams
2 Henin, mostly for weeks at #1,just barely over,
3 V. Williams
-followed by:
4 Sharapova
5 Clijsters -suddenly moved up.
6 Kuznetsova
7 Mauresmo
8 No one I can think of without a slide rule.
-all except Mauresmo could potentially win more slams.

Posted by berkee 09/26/2009 at 07:41 AM

Dinara and Serena, Look out the real #1 is back.

Posted by Master Ace 09/26/2009 at 09:45 AM

Again no argument from on Jennifer being ranked as high as 5. As you know, most people do not remember what happened at the beginning of the decade but on Lindsay, she won only one Slam(2000 AO) and lost 2 tight battles in 2005. Overall, the 2000 player list can be debated for a while. I may come up with a list when 2009 is over and done.

Posted by That One Anon 09/26/2009 at 03:36 PM

I hear the same refrain: Henin's game is beautiful, graceful, exquisite. That's all and good, but the thing that made her a champion and #1 is her combination of power and movement. She may have been the physical opposite of Serena or Venus but she was as much (at least during her peak year of 2007) a power broker as those two.

I've seen writers contrast Henin's game with that of the WS, Sharapova, and the new crop of hard-hitting "pony-tails" of the WTA. That, I think, is an unfair comparison. The WS and Henin just use different methods to achieve the same ends: power and movement. The WS rely on unparalleled athleticism and good (but not flawless) technique. Henin relies on athleticism and absolutely flawless technique.

The problem with lumping in the WS with the rest of the ponytails, then comparing Henin to the lot, is that Henin is simply a better player than the random ponytails. The ponytails can't hope to match Henin's combined movement and power so it makes Henin (and her style of game) look that much better. But you compare her to players who can equal or better her, and she doesn't come out looking so rosy.

Posted by Ruth 09/26/2009 at 08:20 PM

Justine Henin was and probably still is one of hardest hitters of the ball in women's tennis. Why so many of her admirers try their best to avoid acknowledging that has always left me amused and bemused. I've had the pleasure of watching Henin play up close at the USO, and her shots are as fast and as hard as those of almost any one of the so-called big babes. And, to me, that's good!

I will be most interested in seeing if, ater her time away from the Tour, Justine has dropped her habit of looking at her coach so often during her matches. I dislike seeing players (especially WTA players) do that almost as much as I dislike the WTA's continuing on-court coaching policy.

Posted by kim 09/26/2009 at 11:04 PM

Justine left the game because she was losing...her season was going bad so she quit rather than slip in the rankings...I know that many fans have looked for a savior to beat those Williams sisters...using such code words as power hitters and one dimensional...yeah I know youre going to say that other players were given this title wouldn't care about who hit with power in the first place if they were able to beat the WS. You WS haters have banked on a lot of players in the past to be the one...she your latest prospect is good but you better get to praying, because she like all the rest might have to worry about gaint slayers that pop-up in these slams (Bartoli).

Posted by Amanda 09/27/2009 at 08:56 AM

Henin is a great player and her return is good news for Women's tennis. However once again she showed a lack of respect for her partner. She chose to announce her return when her team mate just made an amazing return. In this way she stole the attention from Clijsters. The press is now talking about Henin, how better than Clijsters she used to be and will be. I always appreciated Henin's play but I disliked the way she acted in several events showing she is far from being fair play or even honest. And now I am shocked that she is hardly called on this last move against her team mate. She could have waited since she is returning only in January. What a distateful move!

Posted by Anne Kanarek 09/27/2009 at 12:10 PM


I'am Belgian so eventhough I live in France, I read the Belgian newspapers and she did wait an extra week after Clijsters' victory (her initial announcement was planned the week of September 15. She could not have waited longer than that because there had been several leaks in the Belgian press (as early as August 26)and everybody was already saying that she was a prima donna because she was taking so much time confirming the rumours. Plus, if she wants to start playing in January she needs to inform the WTA at least 3 months in advance so that she can be tested for drugs.

Posted by Amanda 09/27/2009 at 05:32 PM

Thank you for the clarification, Anne.
I still feel uncomfortable about her stealing the attention, specially from her compatriot, and I believe that she could have waited a little more. I know the Belgian press was leaking rumors but it is because there was something to leak probably coming from her or her entourage. And in any case she is a little bit of a prima donna, don't you think so? I also tend to see her as a person who does not care much about others and is dishonest.
But as I said she has a great game and may be she will be less self-centered and more fair play. Let us forget about the past and get ready to applaud the new Henin.

Posted by Charles 09/27/2009 at 07:28 PM

Women's Top 10 list - 2000-2009

1. Henin
2. Serena
3. Venus
4. Clijsters
5. Sharapova
6. Davenport
7. Capriati
8. Mauresmo
9. Kuznetsova
10. Ivanovic
followed by Hingis, Pierce, Myskina

Some rationale:
- Between the time Henin won her first GS and her 7th (2003 FO-2007 US) Serena won only 3 and Venus only 2... Henin is top dog if she wants to be.

- Clijsters as high as 4 because of all the singles titles she's won, 6 GS final appearances, and her stunning comeback

- Only Mauresmo and Sharapova have deprived the WS of Wimbledon in the noughties

- Davenport as high as 6 for 3 yearend #1 finishes on the WTA computer

List of year end number 1's
WTA computer
2000 Hingis
2001 Davenport
2002 SWilliams
2003 Henin
2004 Davenport
2005 Davenport
2006 Henin
2007 Henin
2008 Jankovic
2009 SWilliams? (let's hope and pray)
summary: Henin 3, Davenport 3, Serena 2, Hingis 1, Jankovic 1

ITF yearend #1's
2000 Hingis
2001 Capriati
2002 SWilliams
2003 Henin
2004 Myskina
2005 Clijsters
2006 Henin
2007 Henin
2008 Jankovic
2009 SWilliams?
summary: Henin 3, SWilliams 2, Hingis 1, Capriati 1, Myskina 1, Clijsters 1, Jankovic 1

WTA Player of the Year (journalists vote)
2000 VWilliams
2001 Capriati
2002 SWilliams
2003 Henin
2004 Sharapova
2005 Clijsters
2006 Mauresmo
2007 Henin
2008 SWilliams
2009 SWilliams?
summary: SWilliams 3, Henin 2, VWilliams 1, Capriati 1, Sharapova 1, Clijsters 1, Mauresmo 1

Popular opinion #1 (could be debated, of course)
2000 VWilliams
2001 VWilliams (Capriati)
2002 SWilliams
2003 Henin
2004 Sharapova (Davenport)
2005 Clijsters
2006 Henin
2007 Henin
2008 SWilliams
2009 SWilliams?
summary: Henin 3, SWilliams 3, VWilliams 2, Sharapova 1, Clijsters 1

Singles titles won 2000-2009 (so far)
1. Henin 40
2. Clijsters 34
3. VWilliams 32
4. Davenport 29
4. SWilliams 29
6. Mauresmo 24
7. Sharapova 19
8. Hingis 17
9. Dementieva 14
10. Safina 12
other notables: Kuznetsova 11, Jankovic 11, Seles 9, Ivanovic 8, Capriati 6, Pierce 5

GS singles titles 2000-2009
1. SWilliams 10
2. Henin 7
2. VWilliams 7
4. Sharapova 3
4. Capriati 3
5. Clijsters 2
5. Kuznetsova 2
5. Mauresmo 2
8. Davenport 1, Pierce 1, Myskina 1, Ivanovic 1

GS Singles finals 2000-2009
1. SWilliams 13
1. VWilliams 13
3. Henin 11
4. Clijsters 6
5. Davenport 5
6. Sharapova 4
6. Kuznetsova 4
8. Ivanovic 3
8. Hingis 3
8. Safina 3
8. Capriati 3
8. Pierce 3
13. Mauresmo 2
13. Dementieva 2
15. Martinez 1, Myskina 1, Jankovic 1, Bartoli 1, Wozniacki 1

Posted by Janet Gillebaard 09/27/2009 at 08:45 PM

At Last !!!! I now have an interest once again for tennis. Welcome home Justine, I have not been to the Lipton,Sony Erickson,or any other tournament since you left. My interest has been restored thanks to you.

Posted by polot 09/28/2009 at 06:01 AM

Justine Henin, no doubt is an incredible player.
But her withdrawl from the AO final against Mauresmo and her French Open misdemeanor, show her to have been a poor sport.

Posted by Amanda 09/28/2009 at 09:04 AM

Yes I agree with you, Polot, and I add to this that her timing announcing her return is steeling the attention that Clijsters deserves.
I do hope that Henin becomes aware of her poor behavior and becomes more honest and fair play. To me a great champion is not only one who hits the ball well but one who shows sportmanship. If Henin shows those qualities then I will be able to recognize her as a great champion.

Posted by polot 09/28/2009 at 09:35 AM

Amanda, I think there is a certain ruthlessness and single mindedness that makes great champions. Justine Henin has these qualities. I think she is yet to realise how these same qualities, demonstrated off the court, present her as unscrupulous, inconsiderate and unsporting.

Posted by Chris 09/28/2009 at 11:13 AM

The fact KimC can take 2 yr off and win a Slam obvious speak of her talent, but much much more about the lack of talent and mental toughness on WTA...KimC was a lengendary choker but she won since most of her competition just choke away matchs (like the Oudin sequence,three straight CHOKE jobs, plus Kutz, not to even mention the Serbian pinups, that is all they are good for these days)

Henin and the William Sisters are the only one with the will to win the big matchs..if she can keep her health, I see Henin winning at least two slams next yr (French and US, be good she can collect Wimby also, the slam she never won)

Posted by Amanda 09/28/2009 at 03:07 PM

Right on, Polot

Posted by Amanda 09/28/2009 at 03:13 PM

Polot, I mean that it is just a question of Henin becoming aware of what it does to Mauresmo, Serena or Clijsters, when she quits suddenly for no real reason, does not recognize that she held up her hand during a service or competes for the spot light. We all have to become aware of our weaknesses.So I am looking forward to a faiplay true champion and that may be Henin in the future.

Posted by Sharif 09/28/2009 at 11:38 PM

Welcome back the great back hand Justine Henin. I like this great tennis player .

Posted by Chris 09/28/2009 at 11:40 PM

So was Serena a good sport in comparison like so many of you implies? Lol, like threatening to shovel a ball into a little asian woman's mouth or never acknowledge her opp played a good match is good sportsmanship?

How about Jankovic who got a 30 min massage when she was down 6-0 and a break in a slam?

Let me not even get started on Hingis.

Bottomline, Henin is a great player and champ, and she is not a supervillian compare to other slam winners, just more ruthlessly honest where others fake it

Posted by polot 09/29/2009 at 06:18 AM

Ok, looking at the grand scheme of things Justine is no super villain and in comparison to some of her rivals, perhaps yes, her so called 'misdemeanours' are not all that serious. However, the blog is a discussion about Justine. Not Serena, not Jankovic nor Hingis.

Posted by Ted Williams' Frozen Head 09/30/2009 at 09:59 PM

I'm glad to see another top womens' player added who plays tennis instead of the sport of screamball. I don't watch screamball.

Posted by Ted Williams' Frozen Head 10/01/2009 at 09:33 AM

It makes perfect sense to retire from professional tennis for a while then come back. It is such a grind, there is no off-season, the travelling consumes your life, and while tennis is fun as an avocation, doing it every day of your life for many years can get boring I imagine. So after you get a break then you are refreshed and the money and fame attract you back. Agassi did a similar thing.

Posted by Ted Williams' Frozen Head 10/01/2009 at 03:42 PM


Posted by tina 10/06/2009 at 04:25 PM

A sequel? I never liked Part I.

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