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The Blue-Flame Professional 05/14/2008 - 3:20 PM


I have to admit that the first thing I thought this morning when I learned that Justine Henin has announced her retirement from tennis was that she'd decided to enter the contemplative orders. I've often called her the Sister of No Mercy, because of her nearly religious degree of dedication to tennis, and an ascetic streak manifested in her very welcome and, to me at any rate, admirable indifference to acting out the tedious role of Crossover Female Tennis Star Cum Budding Fashion Icon.

Call me crazy, but I admire tennis players who are content to be tennis players, rather than hankering to be movie stars, apparel designers, entrepreneurs or UN Ambassadors of world peace. Contrary to the fears of many, there is life after tennis just like there is life after college. In an ideal world, that would be the time to start strutting your stuff as chat-show host or catwalk model. Besides, if you did that,  you would know that while your fame undeniably has helped - and why should it not? - it wasn't the only reason you pulled down that highly cherished walk-on role in a sitcom overloaded with T&A jokes. All of us seek validation and clarity. Justine apparently just found some.

I will miss Justine Henin. As some of her most ardent fans will happily point out, I've been hard on her: over the years, I've called her a "demented dwarf" (Sheesh, Pete, did you really write that one?), the Little Backhand that Quit, and, not entirely snidely, referred to her as Justine d'Arc. At times, the incessant self-absorption, the party-pooping gravity (if she appeared in the Periodic Table, her designation would be Pb, no relation to me), even that overwrought tale of her bond with her late mother eventually irritated as much as moved me.

Lighten up, I often wanted to say, you're neither the first person to experience hardship, but you may be the first to attempt to define or, in the worst case, justify yourself because of it. Justine has now cast off the burden, it appears, although I doubt that lightening up is on her immediate agenda. There's a certain romance to taking oneself so seriously.

I will still miss Justine Henin. The other day, while moonlighting for ESPN, I wrote a post on Novak Djokovic's shrewd if not entirely noble mastery of "career management." Some of the things I said about Djokovic apply equally to Henin, and apart from anything else they have shown a comparable degree of overt, blinkered professionalism. Don't you get the feeling that Djokovic is just dying to be a great player, the top player, in exactly the same way Justine once did? That appears to be a thing of the past for Justine; the baton of professional solemnity has been passed.

Justine2 Writing about Djokovic, I suggested that the less savory stunts he has pulled, or been accused of pulling, must seem justified in his own mind because - well, look where they got him. And I argued how other great players did no less thoughtless and inconsiderate things than quitting during matches when things weren't going their way, or cagily manipulating their schedules, in order to attain their goal. By and large, the world quickly forgave and moved on; their ability to get to the top was more admired than their machinations were remembered.

Some fans of Serena Williams never will forgive Henin for the way she sandbagged Serena in that infamous Roland Garros "raised hand" episode, and fair enough. But you can't stop the water flowing under the bridge, and if you do it's likely get all backed up and become a foetid swamp. I'm no longer viscerally upset by that controversy, or by any of the other ones. Isn't the theme song to every successful tennis player's life that masterpiece of naked and bombastic self-justification, Sinatra's My Way?

Last year at Roland Garros, I had a chance to sit with Justine and two other reporters on the day before the women's final. Once again, I found her appealing in that kind of face-to-face setting. Her gravity reminded me of certain children who, by age six, have embraced a serious hobby like stamp collecting, or already seem to know that life isn't all it's cracked to be on the Disney Channel.  Justine must have been that sort of wide-eyed, quiet child, only the hobby was tennis. This is girl who was playing by that age; she's retiring after what is, in reality, a 20-year career.

I'll miss Justine because, well, who else is going to win 10 tournaments and dominate the tour the way Henin did in 2007? Who else is going to bring such pure, blue-flame professionalism to an arena that's grown increasingly crowded by half-hearted, no-hearted, and bleating-hearted idiot savants who have no idea of how good they have it, nor any seeming interest in doing the single, solitary thing that may distinguish them from the woman riding the subway to work with you, or delivering  your mail - playing tennis at an extremely high level, with the kind of dedication that is a given when found in a comparably accomplished neuro-surgeon, hedge-fund manager, ballerina or author. When it comes to representing tennis as a worthwhile profession and something worth doing for its own sake, Henin may not have been perfect, but she had no peer.

Justine1 This, by the way, points toward one component in her popularity, especially among the real connoisseurs of the game. She appeared to play tennis for its own sake, because it happens to be a game that can be played not just effectively, not just successfully, not just interestingly - it can be played beautifully.  Henin, just 25 and an almost frail 5-5 and 126 lbs., played it more beautifully than any woman of her time. At the moment, I'm reading a book (a gift from Kamakshi), Catch and Release, by Mark Kingwell. As he put it,  in a meditation on casting a fly rod, "Can something that is beautiful also be useful? More than that, can its beauty come not as a surcharge to utility, but precisely as a function of utility?"

Justine Henin answers that question for us, and I come to the same conclusion as Kingwell did: "The cast is beautiful not in spite of its interest (purpose) but because of it. Beauty here is not superadded to, and so not separable from, utility."

I'd add one thing to that: Nobody with as beautiful a game has ever had to work so hard to reap its rewards. She had the mentality of a grinder and the strokes of a woodland fairie.

Actually, her decision to retire was foretold by her recent slump, and perhaps even prophesied by the banner year she had in 2007. While talking about this with Tomahawk Perrotta this morning, he suggested that we're seeing a replay of Mats Wilander, circa 1989 (the year after he won three majors and reached the no. 1 ranking). Wilander put his heart and soul into 1988, and discovered in 1989 that there was nowhere else to go - furthermore, there was nowhere else he wanted to go.

Wilander never won Wimbledon, nor did Henin. It's a pity, and the source of my only quibble with her decision to quit. As my editor-in-chief James Martin said, "I can't figure out why she didn't just quietly withdraw from these clay events and give herself one more shot at Wimbledon, one last shot at a career Grand Slam, before she decided to call it quits." I have to believe that she thought of that, or if she didn't, then her lifetime coach, Carlos Rodriguez, did. She must have rejected the idea. That she felt impelled to quit right here and right now, is probably a measure of how little she has left in her emotional tank.

I will miss Justine because for a small woman easily seen as a little girl, she the capacity of her emotional gas tank was comparable to that not of a Ferrari but a HumVee  - and if she had the armor as well, so be it. I will miss her because she gave professionalism in tennis a good name.

May the road rise with you, Justine.

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Posted by Master Ace 05/14/2008 at 03:28 PM

Justine Henin 493-107 with 41 titles.

7 Slams:
Australian Open - 2004
French Open - 2003,2005,2006,2007
United States Open - 2003,2007

First career title won - 1999 Antwerp defeating Sarah Pitkowski
Last career title won - 2008 Antwerp defeating Karin Knapp

Hope Justine will have a productive post tennis career.

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2008 at 03:29 PM

I will miss Henin's game because she played three-dimensionally. In an era dominated by power players, she was able - where Hingis, sadly, was not - to win championships by playing better tennis than her opponents.

I think she is a loss to the WTA game.

Posted by afwu 1216 05/14/2008 at 03:42 PM

I had a mini heart attack when I saw the news.

How do they decide who the next number 1 is?

Posted by Ryan 05/14/2008 at 03:44 PM

With Mauresmo on the downslope, Hingis and now Henin gone, I can't really see myself watching much if any women's tennis anytime soon.

Posted by tania 05/14/2008 at 03:44 PM

Agree.Extremely beautiful game.I remember final in Dubai.Justine and Amelie M.Beautiful intelligent tennis.I am afraid I will not be able to watch WTA anymore.There is nobody to watch.

Posted by KP 05/14/2008 at 03:46 PM

This reminds me of Graf winning the French, making the finals of W in '99, then abruptly retiring right before the USO after an early round loss in a hardcourt warmup event.

many champions really don't think the way we do(like the suggestion of James Martin re Henin & Wimbledon, its not like she was Lendl or Mac or something, I doubt she will lose any sleep about not winning Wimbledon. She's not wired that way.)

Some just play for the love of the game, even with all their success if that goes, why keep playing? should she just play for the historians? Sampras lost motivation after winning his last USO, it happens.

and what was it she said in the presser?

"It is my life as a woman that starts now."

just like Graf & Clijsters...

Posted by Beckham 05/14/2008 at 03:47 PM

In the pic, she looks at peace with her decision, Carlos looks the more broken up of the two...

Posted by Pete 05/14/2008 at 03:49 PM

One thing I neglected to write, which is admittedly narrow, is that all other things aside, the fact that Henin was so professional and serious about what she was doing also made me feel better about what I was doing. With less dedicated players, it's pretty easy to find yourself asking: what the hail am I doing here, if this person doesn't care about what she's doing? It doesn't matter what that "something" is, to do it with purpose and conviction honors the activity and anyone associated with it.

Posted by Nichole 05/14/2008 at 03:52 PM

Respectfully 9th.

Posted by elenas 05/14/2008 at 03:53 PM

Sad and unexpected...Fan or no fan ...WE will all miss her...

Posted by katya 05/14/2008 at 03:54 PM

i admire her for realizing that she doesn't have much left to give. She seems like a complicated person, and i hope she finds success and happiness in her next endeavor.

Posted by KP 05/14/2008 at 03:55 PM

^and going back to the Graf analogy, she had 22 majors at the time of her retirement. The womens record was 24 majors. Clearly a lot of the very best don't play for records at all.

Posted by afwu 1216 05/14/2008 at 03:57 PM

Justine Henin Retirement Press Conference:

Posted by sunce 05/14/2008 at 03:57 PM

I'll never forget her USO07 run and the excitement for the SW/VW maches or some classic matches like against Cap or the olympics SF.
so who will Carlos Rodriguez coach next? (that pic is just great)

Posted by Marian 05/14/2008 at 04:01 PM

I love the article, Pete,

As Andrew says above Justine's retirement is a major loss to the WTA. She was the only female player I've followed and watched. Beautiful tennis and not grunting on the court appeals to my character, just like Roger.

Posted by frances 05/14/2008 at 04:03 PM

Oh stop it, Pete. She was a grinder, but certainly not the picture of profesionalism. You can't rewrite history.
She has cheated in her carerr and she has quit unfairly in her career.

Last week I watched Serena getting beat by Dinara Safina. Safina hit a winner that was called good. Serena wasn't sure so she looked at the linesperson and said something like " was good?" She then asked the linesperson for the mark as the chair umpire was descending from his perch to check the mark out. Serena located the line and signaled for the chair not to bother, because the ball Safina hit was indeed good. Never, ever would Justine have done anyting like that. And that's sad. But the gesture is emblematic of Serena's on court ethics of which Henin was sorely lacking. When is the return date, Henin?

Posted by jhurwi 05/14/2008 at 04:05 PM

Repeating a post from the article at whichI made at the Au Revoir thread. When Henin spoke in a recent interview about losing her "hargne" (spite, quarrelsomeness), and her hatred of being defeated, I wondered if her reconciliation with her family hadn't taken away some of that "Justine against the world" attitude that she drew on to win. This seems to be substantiated by the coach's interview, below. I wish Justine happiness in whatever new direction she has chosen.

And her coach Carlos Rodriguez admitted Henin had lost her drive for success after reconciling with her family.

"Tennis became more than just winning for Justine and just winning wasn't enough for her anymore," he said.

"She used tennis as an outlet for her emotions and finally with her life now reconciled, she no longer has the fire that drove her to success.

"She has come full circle. She started and finished her career surrounded by those she loved, especially her family. It's the perfect end."

Posted by arbiter 05/14/2008 at 04:05 PM

"I've called her a "demented dwarf" (Sheesh, Pete, did you really write that one?)"

Maybe she was not supposed to beat Serena and Venus...not politically correct, so they sent their media dogs to destroy her...and that included you? Am I right or am I right?

Posted by Ed McGrogan 05/14/2008 at 04:06 PM

Pete, your comment after the post is my favorite thing that I take out of this entire piece. Very well put.

In a sport whose athletes, on the whole, seem to value their craft MOST, Justine went even beyond that. And for that - in spite of the tunnel-vision career she may have had - I think she should be commended.

But it's still very puzzling, nonetheless.

Posted by KP 05/14/2008 at 04:06 PM

anyone know what the WTA is planning to do re the rankings? Has Henin requested that they remove her, or will they just slowly let her fall offf the rankings over the next year?

Posted by Pete 05/14/2008 at 04:09 PM

Oh. Let me quickly rewrite this post and make it about Serena's on-court ethics. How stoopid of me!

Posted by 05/14/2008 at 04:10 PM

Master Bodo: if Henin gives masters of the word purpose, I have to think that today's cast of characters (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Roddick, Williams sisters at their best) must also give writers that sense of purpose - those players are all ruthless competitors on court, and they all seem, at their best, to take the game as seriously as anyone who ever played it. (For as sublime as Federer is on the court, got to agree with you...he is a grinder on the order of Lendl. As his game's beauty and utility converged, he "out-Hewitted" Lleyton Hewitt - and someone with Federer's magisterial shots, but Hewitt's consistency, is a record breaker.)

I'm upset to see that one hander go.

After watching Sabatini (I fell in love with that backhand as much as the lady! The backhand, when on, was arguably more arresting than Gabby. It was simply incredible to see her rip topspun one handed backhand passing shots, as gratifying as seeing Seles rip holes in opponents games, or Agassi, or Sampras' clinical approaches at his best) I thought that no one would again have that capability to just rip into a shot. I was wrong...Mauresmo came around and I thought, not bad. But then Henin came around - that's the best one handed backhand on any tour, and probably of all time. And the forehand, when it's confident, was more than was a game decider.

Posted by Nichole 05/14/2008 at 04:10 PM

Sympathies Tania and all. I feel the same way - but I will continue to watch, without holding my breath, for the next all around brilliant and beautiful tennis player. I must keep hope alive for those respects. I think I will favor the other J player, JJ until then. Thank you Pete for the story.

Posted by Pete 05/14/2008 at 04:10 PM

Arbiter, not only are you not right, I have no idea what in hail you're talking about, which I guess leaves open the original question about whether you are right or wrong.

FYI, you should see what I once called Venus and Serena! I pride myself on being an equal opportunity offender.

Posted by Andrew Miller 05/14/2008 at 04:11 PM

Master Bodo: if Henin gives masters of the word purpose, I have to think that today's cast of characters (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Roddick, Williams sisters at their best) must also give writers that sense of purpose - those players are all ruthless competitors on court, and they all seem, at their best, to take the game as seriously as anyone who ever played it. (For as sublime as Federer is on the court, got to agree with you...he is a grinder on the order of Lendl. As his game's beauty and utility converged, he "out-Hewitted" Lleyton Hewitt - and someone with Federer's magisterial shots, but Hewitt's consistency, is a record breaker.)

I'm upset to see that one hander go.

After watching Sabatini (I fell in love with that backhand as much as the lady! The backhand, when on, was arguably more arresting than Gabby. It was simply incredible to see her rip topspun one handed backhand passing shots, as gratifying as seeing Seles rip holes in opponents games, or Agassi, or Sampras' clinical approaches at his best) I thought that no one would again have that capability to just rip into a shot. I was wrong...Mauresmo came around and I thought, not bad. But then Henin came around - that's the best one handed backhand on any tour, and probably of all time. And the forehand, when it's confident, was more than was a game decider.

Posted by frances 05/14/2008 at 04:12 PM

The WTA's gonna move quick because golden girl is No. 2 right now. Can't be too slow in putting the blond darling of Asia in that top spot. I just can't stand the WTA or sports writers in America.

Posted by sunce 05/14/2008 at 04:13 PM

Justine requested to be taken od the rankings, pova will ne the new #1 monday

Posted by jhurwi 05/14/2008 at 04:14 PM

Here is a link to Steve Bierley's blog at , "Governing bodies are to blame."
He links Henin's retirement to the controversies over the schedule (though he doesn't imply that this was her own motive)and says Nadal's body is also breaking down.

Posted by Paul Ryan 05/14/2008 at 04:14 PM

So now everyone should be asking, who will win the French Open this year? Ivanovic? Serena? Sharapova? Jankovic? Other?

Sigh. It would've been nice if Justine stayed around for the French Open though. She would've been the favorite.

Posted by Chiconinja 05/14/2008 at 04:15 PM

Such a sad day for tennis.

I feel happy for Justine because it seems like she realized competitive tennis will no longer bring to her what she wants out of life.

I admire her for staying true to her heart. She could have kept playing for years and would definitely reach double digits in slams (I have no doubt she woulg eventually win Wimby) but instead chose to stop she would not be true to herself.

It takes a lot of courage to make this decision, walking away from the sport you love knowing you can still defend your place at the top.

She will always be proof that YOU can do sooo much...with so little.

PS. I always get picked on for playing with a girl's racquet hahaha. She's just my all time favorite...

Posted by sally 05/14/2008 at 04:16 PM

gee frances, you are kind of a pill.

Posted by Jenn 05/14/2008 at 04:17 PM

If she truly believes that she has nothing left to give, or gain, from the sport, then this is an excellent decision for her. It is terrible to have to see a great champion out there on the decline, just going through the motions. She has always been unique, and I personally never warmed to her, but I grew to really respect her game, particularly watching her this past year.

So who can really pick up banner and run with it in the WTA? Sharapova probably has the edge, but it seems very wide open.

Posted by Brian 05/14/2008 at 04:18 PM

"Clearly a lot of the very best don't play for records at all." - KP

A fitting and all too perfect description of Henin's career. The first thing I thought of when Henin announced her retirement was "what about Wimbledon," the holy grail of grand slams. I am sad that Henin never won Wimbledon and I am even more sad that she is leaving this game. But, clearly, Henin never played tennis simply for the record books; she played because she loved it; she played because it was her dream; she was fueled by passion and guided by sheer professionalism.

Justine burned out. It was all too noticeable in her matches this year; the fire that pushed her to win 10 tournaments last season was no longer there. It's something we can all relate to - when we lose passion for something we were once so passionate about.

When that happens, it is difficult, if almost inappropriate, to pick up the broken fragments and glue them together again and tell yourself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is lost is lost and it is always better to remember it as it was at its best than to mend it and believe that what it is now could just as good as what it was.

Posted by L. Rubin 05/14/2008 at 04:20 PM


Many of our fellow TW posters adore Justine, so why don't you lighten up on the b^%chery a bit?


Say what? By the way (you mentioned this in an earlier post), who owns the media? Come on, big boy--let us know!


Posted by Kat 05/14/2008 at 04:23 PM

Many words have been used to describe Justine Henin throughout her extraordinary and at times, controversial, career. But one world word will remain a constant adjective for any tennis fan who has ever watched her play: inspirational.

At a mere 5 ft 5 3/4, she played a game that reached far beyond the confines of her 120 pound frame. Her all court game brought flair, athleticism, finesse and picture perfect technique to the table and she played the game with defiance, fire and beauty. We will remember every inside out forehand, every sweeping backhand down the line, every first pump and "Allez". But most of all, we will remember her for her grit, her fire and never say-die attitude. The mark of a true champion.

As she bids farewell to the pro tennis world today,with her ever present coach by her side, we will also remember that Justine always plays the game on her terms, much like how she has decided to leave it---at the pinnacle of the game with no regrets.

Au revoir Justine. See you around the bend.

Posted by frances 05/14/2008 at 04:30 PM

Good idea, Pete. Venus and Serena are very classic (traditional) in their etiquette. You should do a post on their on-court ethics. That would be great.

Back to Henin. When is the return date, Justine?

Posted by linex 05/14/2008 at 04:30 PM

That picture of Justine and Carlos is wonderful. I agree with those who say that she looks in peace with her decision.

However, I do not understand the timing of this decision. It is not so awful to loose in 3 sets to Dinara Safina who after all was the champion in Berlin where she beat 3 top 10 players including former number 1 Serena. The thing is that Justine got used to the unusual which was to loose only 4 matches in a year. Something which is rare. Look how in peace is Roger Federer and he also lost many matches this year ... and I guess he assumed that he will loss some more this year. What is important is to play well when it matters.

Roland Garros without her will not be the same, no other woman in today┬┤s game maters the clay as her.

Posted by frances 05/14/2008 at 04:31 PM

Graf's retirement was the best. To be duplicated.

Posted by frances 05/14/2008 at 04:33 PM

Paul Ryan , I agree. Clistjers' and Henin's retirements were unattractive.

Posted by Sherlock 05/14/2008 at 04:35 PM

"I just can't stand the WTA or sports writers in America."

Gosh, I'm shocked. You always seem to be so full of joy when you're here, Frances.

Posted by PC 05/14/2008 at 04:38 PM

It is interesting to see talented tennis women disappear: Seles, Hingis, Capriati, Clisters, the little backhand that quit. Maresmo seems distant these days.

A funny sport, because there's hundreds of hungry girls waiting in the wings to snatch the laurel.

Posted by Ryan 05/14/2008 at 04:39 PM

"Paul Ryan , I agree. Clistjers' and Henin's retirements were unattractive."

Speaking of unattractive...

What's with the anti-tennis people who come to these boards? Don't they have ANYTHING better to do?

Posted by Grant 05/14/2008 at 04:41 PM

"When is the return date, Justine?"

You should totally keep on incessantly repeating this question until you get an answer.

Posted by Myskina+Trains=Tolstoy 05/14/2008 at 04:42 PM

"and what was it she said in the presser?
"It is my life as a woman that starts now."
just like Graf & Clijsters..."

....and Dr. Richard Raskin!

Posted by Chiconinja 05/14/2008 at 04:44 PM

Frances is trying to get on someone's nerves...seems to me like a waste of time.

I'm watching different Justine's matches on youtube and I'm so glad I got to see her play.

Posted by L. Rubin 05/14/2008 at 04:45 PM


Look who's back!


Posted by Andrew Miller 05/14/2008 at 04:47 PM

Mr. Bodo - The comparison to Mats Wilander is excellent. The only difference I think is that Wilander didnt spare himself the additional years of griding - and that might speak to the disparities in payouts these days, meaning a WTA player or a ATP player who has had considerable success (Kafelnikov, for example; Myskina; Clijsters) can retire without "penalties" to their income

- with so much of so much success, by age 22-25, their bank accounts have swelled, they can quit their day jobs.

That might be what makes Borg's example somewhat more interesting in tennis history. When the passion left, he bolted. And we all know the story of the trophies being put up for sale. Somehow I dont think that monetary failure will happen to the likes of Henin and Clijsters, at least not in the same way, because their compensation was vastly higher ($5 million for Henin alone last year, more than $19 million in her career, and more than $458,000 this year alone; Kimmie had well more than $14 million banked by her retirement - these amounts do not account for endorsements).

I know that, to the Sharapov family, the money is a huge issue!

Posted by Sam 05/14/2008 at 04:48 PM

Pete: Thank you for writing this piece. Wish I had more to add, but right now I'm too shellshocked by the news of her retirement.

Posted by la piba 05/14/2008 at 04:49 PM

I stopped watching women's tennis when Graf and Gaby retired. Then Justine came along and I remember watching her first Wimbledon final against Venus in a pub in Bariloche. I loved her game from the beginning. And now she retires?!?! Back to men's tennis for me. I am not 100% enamored of any of the current players on the WTA tour.

Posted by Alexis 05/14/2008 at 04:50 PM

I also believe that Justine had the most beautiful game. It was amazing to see how such a small woman could generate so much power. The womens tour and tennis is surely hurt by this sudden retirement. Good luck Justine. I hope you are happy with wherever life takes you now.

And I agree that her retirement being is akin to Wilander. All I can say about that is thank goodness Federer did not feel that way after 2004, 2006, and 2007 when he won 3 GS.

Posted by TMF Rules 05/14/2008 at 04:52 PM

I would like to point out to those persons on this thread that when you denigrate a player by comparing your fave to that player that you are denigrating you are only making your fave look bad and leaving room for people to cast aspersions against your fave. This post is about Justine and whether you are a fan of hers or not, her presence, or in this case, the lack thereof, will be sorely missed. She did bring something to the game of tennis, a sport we all claim to love and hold dear. She may not have been consistent where sportsmanship was concerned, but so are our faves. This is a competitive individualistic sport and as such from time to time players will do things which when looked at they will hang their heads in shame. Notwithstanding all of that, there are people on this board right now who are grieving because they will no longer be able to see Justine play, me included, and I am not even a fan of hers, but I am a fan of tennis, and I have always enjoyed the many battles between Justine and Serena. Take a page from Serena's book and be left speechless when she said "Gosh, we do not have enough time to go into what made Justine a real champion". Enough of the snide remarks. It is getting really old.

Posted by Liz (for Federer 4-ever) 05/14/2008 at 04:54 PM

~~hugs to all the Justine fans~~

I have problems with your ruminations, Pete on a number of levels. Tennis is such an individual sport that I can embrace the tennis players who are...

..."hankering to be movie stars, apparel designers, entrepreneurs or UN Ambassadors of world peace"

I shows that they are multi dimensional and not self absorbed. By the way, I recognize the players in your above descriptions, low blow!

Do we need to cite the examples of Bjorn Borg who did nothing but tennis and his personal life suffered after he walked away from the game? You can conduct a career on a professional level and you can border on obsessional--I think that's why the abrupt retirement from Justine. Even though she has been thinking about it for a long time, it shows she's just ready to go on with her life without tennis and more power to her. I wish her much success.

I think tennis was a panacea for her because she had such troubles in her personal life. She was portrayed as being the orphan who made good in life, but don't forget she choose to be estranged from her family. She also choose to walk back into their lives. She also choose tennis over her husband, since as he said, he felt like a third wheel. She missed a grand slam sorting out the breakup of her marriage.

All of these spoke of a lack of balance in her life. I don't think she exhibited professionalism so much; it was more a single mindedness to pursue tennis while sacrificing having any sort of personal life.

I had the privilege of seeing her in person in Miami last year, and I will cherish the memory of seeing both the number one male and female player in the world.

Ironically, the thing is during her tennis career she just didn't get it. Or maybe she's getting it now. Both Federer and Nadal come from strong networks that include family and friends and look how successful they have been at maintaining a career. Their family just sits back and supports them through good times in their careers and bad times.

Justine has had the tennis career. Maybe now she can embrace family and friends post retirement. I wish her all happiness.

Posted by Ryan 05/14/2008 at 04:57 PM

OMG, the return of MTT. Why do you tease us so!

Posted by Todd and in Charge 05/14/2008 at 05:00 PM

Pete, thank you for this. I'm with Ed that it is still puzzling, but you wrote an elegant send-off.

Posted by Alexis 05/14/2008 at 05:01 PM

My appologies, TMFrules. I understand what you say. This thread is about Justine and bringing up other players may seem disrespectful to her, but sometimes what happens to one player makes you think different or appreciate someone else. My bringing up Federer really had more to do with Wilander than Henin, anyway. But one can't think of Justine's retirement as #1 without contemplating a similar scenario on the mens side.

Seeing Justine retire at 25 as #1 right before the FO and without winning Wimbledon, did make me think of how I would feel if Federer up and retired as #1 without trying again for the FO and as the 5-time Wimbledon defending champion.

I appreciate Justine and her game but she was not my favorite. So for me to put her retirement into perspective, I think of how I would feel if Federer retired. And it certainly is not meant as a diss to Justine.

Posted by nalbyfan 05/14/2008 at 05:03 PM

i will miss you justine this just breaks my i've no business watching women's tennis

Posted by Sandra 05/14/2008 at 05:03 PM

Justine was a fabulous player and I enjoyed watching her. But she's now retired, and life, the world, and the WTA will keep moving. As much as Justine has contributed to tennis, I don't subscribe to the "apres Justine, le deluge" mode of thinking. Players retire, some earlier than others. Retirement is inevitable for all tennis players. Just as inevitably new players and new stars always emerge. Life and tennis will go on. But in the short-term, Justine and her game will be missed.

Posted by Myskina+Trains=Tolstoy 05/14/2008 at 05:04 PM

I dunno, retiring on your own terms while still #1 lacks the dignity of being knocked up and not knowing who the father of your child is.

I'll miss Justine as I'm quite fond of women who can produce lobs, drop shots, volleys, and slices.

Posted by TMF Rules 05/14/2008 at 05:04 PM

Alexis, the post was not directed at you, or anyone else who is making similar comparisons with other players. My comment was meant rather for those persons who are insinuating that Justine was less than professional, that she was a cheater, a drug user etc. and remarking on how players like Serena are so much more professional than Justine. That kind of comparison has no place here. This is about someone who represented the sport of tennis, and regardless of the incidents which may leave a bitter taste in people's mouths, now is not the time to rehash the past.

Posted by temes 05/14/2008 at 05:08 PM

I agree Sandra, I'm shocked to see the number of comments that are "this is the end of womens tennis"...something I just don't understand. I can understand what it is like to be a die hard fan(lol) but please some still enjoy womens tennis without Justines greatness as well.

Posted by Nichole 05/14/2008 at 05:18 PM

Well said MTT and TMF Rules. I would just like to add on to TMF Rules' comment by saying to those people who are being rather disrespectful, remember the Golden Rule.

Posted by Ryan 05/14/2008 at 05:20 PM

MTT, your pseudo-relationship with Anastasia is fascinating.

Posted by carnap 05/14/2008 at 05:20 PM

Frances: I'm guessing you are one bitter, disgruntled, incomplete person. Justine Henin accomplished a great deal in her short career that gave pleasure to many of us. Instead of spewing hatred at someone who has no idea you're even alive, why not try to achieve something in your own life? All you achieve by your inelegant ranting and raving is to cast yourself in a very dim light.

Brava Justine for making the decision that's right for you and retiring undefeated and unseated as the world's #1!! We will miss you dearly.

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Red Rogie!) 05/14/2008 at 05:21 PM

lol temes well thats no surprise, you're the biggest big babe tennis fan there is! with the Williams, Safina, Shriekie, etc., youre in big babe heaven this year! bang bang bang, get ready its an all out slug fest in 2008 ...

hey, we still have amelie, no? no? lol... maybe this will inspire her in some odd way to get her tail in gear, she's the last hope for variety for those of us who care

Posted by nalbyfan 05/14/2008 at 05:24 PM

temes: i'm a justine die hard fan and i now know what it's like to have your favorite player retire so early...ofcourse it's not the end of women's tennis but try to put yourself in our shoes here it's really hard watching now your favorite is out...and i've mentioned before i'm small just like justine and that's why for me she was extra special i'm not just a fan i'm someone who was really inspired by her
but for sure it's not the end of women's tennis life goes on but for now it's really hard for her fans to take it that way
but anyways i'm glad you're not a die hard fan of anybody cause it's alot healthier this way

Posted by misael 05/14/2008 at 05:25 PM

Frances you're getting alot of delight about Henin leaving the game, But if you're talking about people retiring during matches, so many times Serena is losing and all of a sudden she has an injury, In her career Serena has withdrawn 68 times, 68 times[.]

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/14/2008 at 05:26 PM

it's tough to lose the best player in today's women's tennis...
when you quit a professional game as much demanding as tennis, it's allways done the players way... baring injuries.
no farewell, no long slump that every single journalist will bring on again and again, no mre victories or defeats to talk about, but something freely chosen : life.

what changed for good justine life was to divorce and find a way to go back to her family... in any normal non player life that kind of change is radical and really makes you think about your life, no ? emotionnally tennis gave her everything during a long time, then she discovered she could have better, is that too simple ? who said tennis players were different than any of us ?

i don't think that the fact she lost her edge since the begining of the year is a factor in her retirement, it's just the confirmation that she no longer had it or needed tennis, i wrote this morning that i though that the match against maria at the masters was an important factor, it's not exactly what i though first, but what she achieved in 2007 was almost the very best she could do... tennis fullfiled her wildest dreams ? more than possibly... i don't see it like if it was her empty tank that left her no reason to fight for... i think just the oposite, when you are full, you don't need more of it.
she was happy and full of new desires in her speech and ready for different challenges, i haven't seen her so relaxed and radiant, not even after any of her big victories.
i'm a bit less sad to see it that way.
go justine !

Posted by TMF Rules 05/14/2008 at 05:26 PM

O/T - sharapova has been out there for almost 3 hours - damn

Posted by carnap 05/14/2008 at 05:28 PM

Nalbyfan: Take heart. There's someone on the court right now who is also small and giving Masha a heck of a time in her first match in Rome...Dominika Cibulkova who is a towering five feet three inches lol. I'm sure Masha will win, but it's late in the third set and almost 3 hours of play. I doubt Masha will be in fighting form tomorrow when she has to play Wozniacki.

Posted by temes 05/14/2008 at 05:30 PM

Lol Tim that would be heaven! But I'm not a big fan of Safinas tennis she's good when she's good I don't think she has the it factor that appeals to me in Maria...then again Serena and Venus are in other dimensions as athletes and in no way can be placed in the mindless ball basher category...

Posted by Syd 05/14/2008 at 05:37 PM

Henin has said she would like to study. Tennis has been her whole life. And unlike almost any other high-octane career, tennis players have scant respite in which to rest and recharge from a life spent going from one hotel to the next. I can understand why she wants to enrich her life with other experiences.

As a fan, I am miserable. There's no one I'd rather watch play the game, save for Federer. But I'm glad she's gone out on her own terms, and as the Number One. No one will ever be able to take that away from her.

Allez! Justine.

Posted by temes 05/14/2008 at 05:38 PM

No misael please no salt rubbing on wounds after Rena retires we all haven't deserved it lol...

Posted by Ruth 05/14/2008 at 05:40 PM

Unlike Pete, I have nothing but admiration for those players who are able to use all of the down time that they have as professional tennis players (something which Pete tends to exaggerate, IMHO) to pursue or participate in business, educational, or entertainment interests that don't involve their training and playing events.

Henin did not wait until she was through with tennis to open her club in France (seen on TC years ago) or her academies in Monaco and the USA, and Amy Frazier certainly didn't wait until she retired (has she BTW?) to start taking courses in mathematics in order to become a math teacher post-tennis.

Likewise, I don't think that those players who want to pursue modelling or acting or interior decorating or skydiving after their tennis careers end should be required to hold off participating in those activities just because some folk (including me) might consider those pursuits less important than those that other players pursue. Right, Pete?

Posted by Christine C 05/14/2008 at 05:41 PM

I agree with you lapiba. I'll probably watch men's tennis more often now. don't know who to cheer for on the women's side though (Go Svetlana Kuznetsova!)

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Red Rogie!) 05/14/2008 at 05:41 PM

temes, mindless no, ball basher, yes!

i guess we still have the Lindsay comeback to enjoy as a good story in women's tennis..

Posted by temes 05/14/2008 at 05:44 PM

Mindful ball basher! I like the sound of that Tim! *does a cheerful dance, for some reason

Posted by dw 05/14/2008 at 05:45 PM

I posted this on Pete's last post. But it is more in place here:

I think Justine allowed herself to feel too much pressure as a best player and that takes a toll on your body. During Clijsters' last FO, when the two met in semis, Clijsters' mentioned that Justine was a fovorite to win the match (and rightly so)and Justine's response to that was cold and almost accusatory. This is not to knock down Justine, but to highlight that she always felt too much pressure when she was expected to win big (eg Bartoli loss)and during press conferences she tried her best to get rid of this burden. After a stellar 2007 (dominatng Willimas sisters among others) one can only imagine the immense amount of pressure she felt to do it all over again.

Posted by Lleytsie 05/14/2008 at 05:54 PM


Almost felt like someone was talking to me




and a huge hi to COWBOY Luke from me Mate - be back for Garros

Posted by randomlurker 05/14/2008 at 05:56 PM

All the best to Justine. It was a pleasure watching her these past few years. She will be sorely missed. I really don't think I'm going to be watching womens tennis until for a while.

A lot has already been said, but I would like to flat out say that she had The Best Backhand in the game. Men or women. Fed is close, but he shanks quite a few.

Posted by Syd 05/14/2008 at 05:59 PM

Billy Jean King calls her "The best of her generation." Other players also laud her. Some interesting Federer comments:

Posted by dw 05/14/2008 at 05:59 PM

She has so many wonderful on court qualities. Let's no forget her flawless footwork.

Posted by Lleytsie 05/14/2008 at 06:02 PM

yeah - am not gonna gate crash her party

she is one of the best tennis players Ive had the fortune to have seen ... but lets stop at that

wonderful on court qualities, i dont think raising hands and quitting in a slam finale count for that dw

Posted by dw 05/14/2008 at 06:05 PM

Lleytsie, to be clear I strictly meant her game. Maybe, I should have been more clear.

Posted by Trevon 05/14/2008 at 06:11 PM

I would say I'm not the biggest Justin fan, i have what she did to Serena and Amile. When I heard she retired I was sad as a tennis fan. she brought so much to the game and with out her the game would lack substance. she is a brilliant athlete and I am afraid that the WTA will flood with one slam wonder's, like in 04 when she was absent from three slam because of injury. Don't get me wrong the game still contain quality players ( williams and Maria) but none was as dedicated as Henin. I will centainly miss her for keeping the women tour in order.

Posted by dw 05/14/2008 at 06:13 PM

Also, she was the only active player to win atleast one slam for five years in a row.

Posted by Mark 05/14/2008 at 06:15 PM

"Call me crazy, but I admire tennis players who are content to be tennis players, rather than hankering to be movie stars, apparel designers, entrepreneurs or UN Ambassadors of world peace. Contrary to the fears of many, there is life after tennis just like there is life after college. In an ideal world, that would be the time to start strutting your stuff as chat-show host or catwalk model."

I enjoyed reading the article, but I wonder if the above quote was the perfect chance for you to take a dig at the Serena's, Sharapovas, Venus, etc of the tennis world. One thing I would argue is the players who choose to try to balance off-court pursuits with the pro tour, maybe their ones who will have the longest careers as they will not be as burned-out as quickly, have they been 100% focused on tennis.

Posted by Nhi 05/14/2008 at 06:20 PM

I've never liked Henin, simply because I am a huge fan of Clijsters ... until today, when I realize that I will never have a chance to watch her playing live again.

All the best!

Posted by Chris 05/14/2008 at 06:24 PM

Henin will be missed greatly she was a great and respectful player comparing her to the self obsorbed serena as Francis did is a real crime so best of luck to her in the future she deserves it

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 05/14/2008 at 06:26 PM

I think there is a difference between a player having their best year at age 25 or 26, and then ultimately retireing at age 30 or 31, and this relatively new phenomenon we see today.

It is a pretty hard task to be the best in the world, and tennis is a harsh sport, where being ranked 16 or so is the same, in some folk's minds, as being ranked 1600.

I don't think that players owe the fans more years, I just hope that someday the WTA tour can be made more appealing to its actual players.

Posted by MrsSanta 05/14/2008 at 06:31 PM

I don't understand this at all but good luck to her. Carlos needs a cupcake and whisky.

I'm a little weirded out by the idea that being a woman and being a professional tennis player are mutually exclusive conditions in Juju's mind.

Posted by Nichole 05/14/2008 at 06:34 PM

Question - Does anyone know of any up and coming players who have more complete games than just the baseline style????? (What is Cornet's game like?)

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/14/2008 at 06:36 PM

If Henin were in a movie, it would be directed by Theodore Dreyer.

Posted by temes 05/14/2008 at 06:37 PM

Lol MrsSanta I think you are the best, I really do. lol

Posted by Nichole 05/14/2008 at 06:38 PM

Mrs. Santa -
I think she means she is ready to take on more of the responsibiliies that accompany women adults instead of women athletes? Maybe?

Posted by embug 05/14/2008 at 06:40 PM

Pete... you drove home a point, which I'm happy to have read. She played to play tennis, not to open the door for another opportunity. She focused on this beautiful sport and gave all she had, which from a physical point of view was tiny compared to many of the women pros out there. She showed the world that size doesn't really matter. She was the consummate tennis professional.

Before reading your post I had mixed feelings about her announcement because I'm not a fan of hers. The AO thing blew my mind!!! Now, though, I can keep my negative thoughts right along with ones that won't stop the water from flowing and allowing her her due. Thank you.

Posted by MrsSanta 05/14/2008 at 06:43 PM

Right back at ya temes.

Nichole such as?

Posted by Calvin 05/14/2008 at 06:46 PM

You are an inspiration to all sports people out there. Your fighting spirit is just unbelieveable. Take care and all the very best.

Posted by nalbyfan 05/14/2008 at 06:52 PM

mrsSanta : i guess justine meant that she wants to start a family ,get married and have kids and not everyone can make a balance between both besides she spoke about studying and doing other things in her life...if she feels like she have accomplished everything she ever wanted in tennis, if she reached that feeling of satisfaction then it's time for her to do other things in life

Posted by ND 05/14/2008 at 06:55 PM

"Call me crazy, but I admire tennis players who are content to be tennis players, rather than hankering to be movie stars, apparel designers, entrepreneurs or UN Ambassadors of world peace."

Amen! Had the pleasure of watching Justine live once (last year at the US Open), simply beautiful. I hope the extreme one-handed backhand lives on.

Posted by Myskina+Trains=Tolstoy 05/14/2008 at 06:57 PM

"If Henin were in a movie, it would be directed by Theodore Dreyer"

Hmmm...before today it would've been "The Passion of Joan of Arc", now it's more "Gertrud".

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