Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Farewell Justine?

If it's true that Justine Henin is to retire from tennis as reported in two Belgian newspapers earlier today (4pm update: it is) it will be a very sad loss to the sport. Having followed the game since I was about seven or eight, I can safely say that she is the most watchable player I have ever seen on court. Her backhand in particular is a thing of beauty.

She has been runner-up in two Wimbledon finals, in 2001 and 2006. If Ken Rosewall is by common consent the greatest men's player never to win the trophy, Henin will go down in my view as the finest woman player never to lift the crown.

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Anonymous said...

I agree Paul - one of the best backhands in male or female game. I think her rise alongside Clijsters made it hard for her in that she was seen as colder and more aloof, but I've always found her tennis magical.

What was so important was her success came after the breakthrough of the Williams sisters. Many commentators assumed that all women in the future would have to be built with a powerful muscular frame. In many respects Henin's slight frame, great movement and that wand of a backhand saved women's tennis.

Paul Linford said...

My all-time top ten favourite tennis players, all craftsmen and women as opposed to out-and-out power merchants:

1. John McEnroe
2. Justine Henin
3. Rod Laver
4. Martina Hingis
5. Ilie Nastase
6. Roger Federer
7. Ken Rosewall
8. Hana Mandlikova
9. Miroslav Mecir
10. Gabriela Sabatini

Stephen said...

You've missed off Maureen Connolly. Little Mo was truly wonderful to watch.

Paul Linford said...

Before my time Stephen. The ten listed were all players I either watched in the flesh or on the telly.

Stephen said...

And you write like an old man! 9 Majors, including a Grand Slam, before an enforced retirement at the age of 19 says most of what needs to be said about Mo; not too dissimilar to Justine in style actually (I'm another fan) but quite astonishing levels of energy, she made it look easy.

Anonymous said...

A great list - artists rather than bashers. Good to see the enigmatic Mecir featuring. Hingis' unfulfilled talent an even greater shame then Henin's story.
Surprised not to see Evonne Cawley though, who I would have thought would also be to your taste