Just out of reach! -----
-Justine Henin of Belgium stretches for a backhand return during the women's final match against Serena Williams of the US-
(1) S. Williams *** (USA) 6 3 6
-------- (WC) J. Henin (BEL) 4 6 2
Readers of this blog know that MrKen is in no way a fan of the younger Williams sister. But I was nonplussed at the following opinion & quote attributed to Serena in a story about Justine ('Good Times and Bad, Henin Has Kept Her Coach in View') reported in the New York Times (1/22-Joe Drape):
'Serena Williams, the world's top player, understands that Henin's enterprising shot-making and speedy persistence offer a counterpoint to her own formidable talents.'
"I'm so happy to see Henin back and doing well," Williams said. "She's such a good player and a fighter. I think she brings just a totally different theme to the game."
This is phony-baloney, disingenuous nonsense from Tennis's #1 Thug; there is plenty of bad blood between these two--& I am certain that Henin is the LAST player that Williams wants to see back on the WTA tour. Before this match, Henin had defeated Williams in 4 of their previous 6 meetings at MAJORS (remember--the only kind of tournament Serena feels is "worthy" of her participation).
There were rumors that Venus had finally prevailed on Serena to "apologize" at her THIRD press conference/rant for her infamous "foot-fault" outburst at the U.S. Open, as one or more of Serena's sponsors may have been getting "cold feet".
I suspect the aforementioned comment was also prompted by her older, smarter & less mercurial sibling.
Long-time coach Carlos Rodriguez has been working with Henin to revamp her game-- her forehand and serve (especially her second serve). Her backhand is still the best in the women's & men's game (John McEnroe, among others think so). And Henin has indicated that she wants to play a more aggressive and varied style.
In my humble opinion however, I think that she may have overdone the aggressiveness a bit in the final, especially Justine's attempted forehand & backhand topspin "smashes" of Serena's many weak second serves--thus giving away too many precious points-many of them 'break' points'.
Before the final, I considered Henin a 4-1 or 5-1 underdog, mostly due to her weak serving during the Open. She had far too many double faults, and her second serve was very tentative. Not to mention this was only her second tournament back after a nearly two year layoff. I also considered that Justine might be unable to handle Williams' power after a 20 month layoff.
Interestingly, odds makers in Melbourne rated the final as 'pick em'!
Nevertheless, Henin is such a pint-sized artist on a tennis court-@ 5 feet 5 and 126 pounds-that her outsize talent, speed & mental toughness enabled her to defeat such top players at Melbourne as Nadia Petrova #19--who absolutely destroyed Kim Clijsters 6-0, 6-1 --(& what was that all about?) & Elena Dementieva #5, on her way to the showdown with Williams.
While Justine was reeling off 15 consecutive points at the end of the 2nd set & the beginning of the 3rd, one of the commentators (I believe Mary Carillo) said-to paraphrase-"well, Justine has the best technique in the game, much better than Serena's. Serena basically only has her power..."
Actually, Henin won only five fewer points than Williams in the match, and their service speeds were comparable.
Justine Henin's Official Web/Fan Site (in English) is:
Prediction: Justine will regain the #1 Ranking & is a good bet to win the French Open.