Wednesday, 26 January 2011

More on Henin





More on Nadal later.


Still reeling.


Immediate (mixed, uncut, rather disorganised) thoughts :


1) This is not #GoodForTennis, which benefits from varied styles of play. The WTA is poorer for it, whatever you might have thought of her and whatever difficulties you might have thought she would face in a very different environment from her first career outing.


2) Needless to say, women’s tennis is not in need of saving from anything or anyone. Anyone that saw the WTA tennis on offer this fortnight knows that’s just a loada hooey.


3) Corollary: If a mini-era of Clijsters domination were to happen (not at all certain btw), Justine wouldn’t have been the one to stop it. Sad, but true.


4) There’s been a lot of talk about how she was finding it difficult to re-establish herself in her second career – that’s probably true.


I also think, however, that she was incredibly unlucky.


Since coming back in 2010 she made the finals of Brisbane (losing to Kim), final of Oz (losing to Serena), semis of Miami (losing to Kim), won Stuttgart, made the R16 in RG and won s’Hertogenbosch before suffering that ill-fated fall in the R16 at Wimbledon (again against Kim).


For a player returning after a 20 month outage, those are impressive results.


None of this is to say what coulda-shoulda-woulda been, just that a fair assessment demands recognising what an unfortunately decisive role that torn elbow ligament played in what was, after all, only a smallish 15 month window.


5) Henin’s competitive instinct was legendary – sometimes to her own detriment. This sometimes made her difficult to warm up to (witness vast number of twi-butes beginning with “Never a great fan BUT,…”). 


Easy sometimes, though, to lose sight of the fact that tennis players are people first and foremost; and people tend, for the most part, to be built differently. Each to their own of course (she wasn’t my favourite player either), though it’s worth remembering we account for this in life too, do we not?


6) Less easy to understand is a prevalent tendency to base an entire character assessment on two of her least finest moments. Both those incidents (no need to reiterate them) were problematic on all sorts of levels.

They were also (both) a very long time ago. Most people I know believe in 2nd chances. They also believe in letting go.


7) All that said and done the decision to retire sounds permanent. Given the medical consultations she has undergone, the fact that she was playing with pain right through Oz and that she would very likely have called it quits at the London Olympics 2012 anyway, that would appear to be the right one.


She was never one to hang around if she felt she couldn’t meet (in this case through a physical ailment) her own very high standards.


8) Just in the last day or so, Dementieva asked to have her name removed from the rankings. Guess that makes it official too.


I was always far more invested in Elena, though any perma-feature of the noughties – and Henin was always far more than that – was always bound to induce at least some wistful reminiscing. It’ll be the same when ARod quits. Oh yes, 2012 will be a bloodbath of retirements.


9) We’ve all mused over and over about her aesthetically-pleasing, feature-rich, multi-dimensional game. Well that’s history now.


I expect Suarez-Navarro will over the coming weeks find her practice sessions frequented by an unusually large number of disillusioned, nostalgic Juju fans, but the truth is, there doesn’t appear (at least for the moment) to be anyone

with a remotely similar style of play.


That’s not always the tragedy it’s drummed up to be – talent has always evolved in different ways and there’s plenty of exciting developments to look forward to – but is still a little sad.


I’ll always remember her for her being one half of her (sometimes contentious) rivalry with Serena Williams – a rivalry that spanned the better part of a  decade, a rivalry that was what it was because of both of them.


Best of luck Juju in whatever you do.

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