I've been wanting to compose this thread for a long time, and I suppose now's as good a time as any.
2000: Plagued with injuries, frail then-Justine Henin plays just 13 tourneys, reaching only 3 QF's and no better.
2001: A rejuvenated Justine Henin explodes onto the big Pro-Tennis stage, winning the first two tournaments of the year(Gold Coast and Canberra), losing in the fourth round in Melbourne to a then still-formidable Seles. After choking away that match, Justine also chokes away a chance to reach her dream final at Roland Garros, but seizes the day a few weeks later, dashing, crushing, obliterating Capriati's calendar-year slam hopes
, before getting blown off the grass like a wispy leaf by then still-reigning Queen of England Venus in the Wimby final(but not before capturing my heart and lifting me out of my post-Steffi depression
). Side note: also just happened to avenge her RG defeat at the hands of her compatriot to round out her 3 titles of '01 at Rosmalen.
2002: Ekes out a victory over Serena in Berlin, loses a squeaker the following week in Rome to the same, and then, to the dismay of her fans, pays the heavy toll for her rigorous schedule by LITERALLY choking her way out the first round of RG with bronchitis.
Manages to capture a second title late in the year, but '02 would nevertheless go down as more disappointing than victorious, at least for those of us her fans who knew what potential REALLY
existed in what Mary Carillo had once dubbed "the pussy cat in the corner."
2003: VINDICATION, VICTORY, VALIDATION: Having thought Justine had completely lost her mind by retooling her serve during the short between-seasons layoff, Justine showed she and Carlos knew a smidgin more than this park-playing, unschooled Californian!
Justine would play a whopping 83 matches, losing just 11 times.
The REAL story, however, was 8 (count 'em!
) titles, including 2 Grand Slams
2004 As the calendar clicked over to yet another even-numbered year, Justine's biological clock seemed to sense it: Despite winning in Melbourne to lack only Wimbledon for a career Slam and going through top 10 opponents like the Tasmanian Devil on her way to 4 WTA titles, Justine would once again remit a large chunk of her precious youth in payment for pushing the physical envelope. We all know the story, so I won't bother with the details. Nevertheless the Almighty almost seemed to smile down on Justine in sympathy, allowing her a brief shining moment to bask in the glow of Olympic Gold before succumbing to the only opponent Justine couldn't seem to overcome, a foe unbelievably smaller even than the diminutive figure of which I speak.
But what of 2005?
Well, as Tom Cruise would say: "Crashed and burned the first time..."
And the second?
I don't know, but it's looking pretty good so far...
Thank God it's an odd-numbered year!