On Justine Henin, and the Evolution of Serena's Game - TennisForum.com

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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 12:14 PM Thread Starter
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On Justine Henin, and the Evolution of Serena's Game

Question: Which of the BIGGER power players, if any, will incorporate as much 'off-speed' tennis into their game as Justine Henin does?

I consider Justine a power player. I know a lot of her fans cringe when they hear that, but what can I say? Her whole game is founded on how much pace she can generate. She does a much better job of using other shots and speeds than all the other high- velocity players. But that all works because she can hits 100 mph off both sides. (She can damn near run that fast too. Always an advantage.)

You might say Justine's the prototype "Power Player Plus".

If you can bring yourself to accept that premise, answer this for me.

Who's going to be the first BIG 'Power Player Plus'?

The question implies I think none of them are there yet, and that's my take.

Venus, Serena, Jenn, Lindsay, Jelena, Kim, Amelie, Meghann, Daniela and Elena D are all variations on Monica Seles. (Which is quite a tribute to Monica, if you stop and think about it.)

Among that Serena is trying, and right now, I'd say she comes closest. But she's not there yet. If you watched the Berlin and Rome finals, you could see that most of Justine's off-speed shots were a little better, in one way or another. A little better disguised, a little more reflexive, Justine's drop shots were a little closer to net, her deep slices a little closer to the lines. Now, Serena's stuff is killer, which Jenn or Venus or Justine will tell you. But when it comes to that mix of power and finesse, compared to Justine, Serena's still a wannabe.

The important thing is, she IS a wannabe.

Most of the others don't WANT to be all court, power plus finesse players. They want to stay on the baseline and slug it out. Serena wants it.

At Charleston, Patty Schnyder made Serena look helpless. I can still see Serena netting four straight returns of Patty's (not all that powerful) serve on Patty's last service game. Serena was not even in control of her own game, and it showed.
Two weeks later at Berlin, Serena changed. And lost to Justine in a hell of final.
A week later, Rome. Even more off-speed, even less power. She actually BEATS Justine.
Two weeks later, the RG semis.

Jenn BEAT Serena's power game. Pure and simple. Serena threw her best power game at Jenn and wound up down the a set. The Wild Thing answer was 'when in doubt, hit it harder'. The answer that won the match was, 'be Conchita Martinez til you get a REAL chance to hit a winner'.

So is Serena the next 'Power Player Plus'? I don't buy it yet. Let's see what happens when she gets on grass or hard courts. Will she revert to Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am tennis? Or continue her evolution into a player the likes of which the tour simply hasn't ever seen? Venus TRIES to go to net. But when the going gets tough, Venus gets going. To the baseline. Jenn and Monica seem nearly allergic to net. Kim has a real chance to develop into that player. But like Serena at that age, she's injured a lot.

Right now, IMO, Serena's the player with the best chance to be that 'economy size', 'power player plus'. But has she the will? Does she really WANT to be that kind of player? Or does she view this as a temporary adjustment, specifically made for clay?

We'll see.

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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 01:07 PM
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Good Serena is trying But her slice are terrible!!!!!! If she wants to become a 'big power player plus' she realy needs to work on that part of her game (a backhand slice is NOT played 2-handed!!)

I agree on Kim, she's starting to get there, but still can improve a lot on going on to the net.

There's no powerplayer except Justine who plays an appraoch shot to go the net. I shame, cos it's a good variation.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 01:22 PM
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I would consider Amelie to be a "power plus" player, her game is based on power and variety just as much as Justine, if not more. Her problem is that she is inconsistent, wildly error-prone on her bad days and she doesn't have the mental strength as of yet.

However, out of all the other players you mentioned, Serena has utilised the "pluses" the best IMO. I never imagined I would say that having watched her power tennis over the years but from what I saw in Berlin, Rome and Roland Garros, she is certainly someone who mixes it up, uses variety when she needs to and she isn't afraid of using them. She used them over the fortnight much better than Venus, and actually, is more technically gifted than her older sister.

I think in the long run, Daniela will become a power plus player. Her game will be based on raw power because she's got lots of it, but she has a great all-court game as it is and can only be developed further. Kim also has the potential to be a power plus player however I don't see her really fully utilising those advantages yet. Let's give her some time though.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 02:16 PM
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Personally, I think Serena's and Justine's records speak for themselves. What is their current head-to-head, how many titles does Justine have? How many are tier 1's, how many grand slams? I don't think Justine has anything that Serena needs. Again look at the facts and look at their records.

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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 02:37 PM
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another player can always get something from another player to improove. No player is best in every discipline. Even Serena can learn some things from other players, it has nothing to do with records!
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 03:41 PM
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I see what you're saying about Monica. At times she looks like she panics when she does manage to magically appear at net. More often than not, she can't volley to save her own life.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 04:23 PM
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supremeross:

Serena may not *need* a slice backhand as good as Justine's, but if she were able to add it, how much better of a player would it make her? I suppose it would be nice to have that many weapons in one's game.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 05:10 PM
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Volcana,

I believe Serena would be the closest. But the ultimate ones are not yet on tour! That would be the next evolution of the game. In fact the future Power players Plus might be watching these matches as a kid, yet to get on tour!

Venus would use less and less power as she reaches her peak. She would go for EFFIECIENCY.

Henin has always been at her best when playing her POWER game. No matter what some would have us believe, she is a POWER player. Without her power she would be an ALSO-RUN. In fact fact she nees her power game more than the Sisters. Their have the best DEFENCE games on tour, to gether with Jenny ( She was impressive the way she nullified Serena's power game).
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 05:27 PM
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Excellent analysis. The Power Players Plus (and this'll probably turn out to be a technical label - you should copyright it ) will be the players who don't have as much power as, say, Venus Williams or Lindsay Davenport. Neither Hantuchova nor Clijsters can match them in power, so in order to put up a fight they HAVE to utilise other weapons, something which players like Venus or Serena only have to do on surfaces like clay, or against difficult opponents. On grass, Serena doesn't need finesse full stop. She may use it, and the signs are that she will, but she can take the title without it. Hantuchova and Clijsters can't.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
I don't think Justine has anything that Serena needs.
I can think of two things, one physical, one mental.

1) Justine is a great during match analyzer and when the time comes, she can switch QUICKLY from plan A to plan B. Serena takes longer, and the adjustment isn't as clean. (Well, it was against Jenn. Do they make mental steroids? Cause Serena sure has gotten smart in the past two months.)

Serena's good at figuring out what the other player is doing. Sometimes (see vs Schnyder at Charleston) she's unable to get herself to do what she wants on court. Justine is good at that.

2) Justine can be four feet from the net and half-volley a hard driven ball, off the ground, or her shoes into a drop shot winner.

Serena didn't lose to Justine in Berlin. She got beat. And she said as much herself. The next week, Justine didn't explode and give away Rome. Serena took it.

Give the girl credit for talent and guts, and remember Serena was once kown as 'Wild Thing'. Age brings maturity. Maturity (usually) brings better control of your nerves. Justine's control of her nerves is about as good as Serena's was at that age. She's got a coule GS's in her. And about 7 years to get them.

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Last edited by Volcana; Jun 12th, 2002 at 02:46 AM.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 08:58 PM
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Volcana: (Serena was once kown as 'Wild Thing'. Age brings maturity. Maturity (usually) brings better control of your nerves. Justine's control of her nerves is about as good as Serena's was at that age. She's got a coule GS's in her. And about 7 years to get them)

I agree Age does bring forth maturity....well at least sometimes. But match play does the same thing. Although Serena may have been on tour for seven years she played very few matches. Serena still has very few matches when compared to other elite players. Justine, and Kim as well, are playing more that twice the matches Serena plays. Serena is just now getting the required experience to excell in the WTA. It is just amazing that she has accomplished what she has with no juniors and limited matches.

Serena Kim Justine
# of Tournies 54 64 60
# of matches 212 174 170

Actually both Kim and Justine have played more tournaments than Serena. While Serena leads in the number of matches.

All of this to say Serena is almost as inexperienced as either Kim or Justine albeit older and despite her tenure.

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 09:10 PM
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Serena won Rome, Justin didn't give it to her. The only thing Justin is better than Serena is her touch at net, but not by much. Serena is much better off the baseline. Everyone talks about Justin's backhand. Yes, it's a beautiful shot, but more often than not she would hit a slice backhand. That's why players always pick on her backhand side when they play her , just like steffi. While Serena is lethal off both sides. Lindsey said that clearly at last year's US open when they asked her the difference playing Justin and Serena. As to power player and finess player, I think you can put lindsey as the extreme of power player while Martina the extreme of finess. And both Justin and Serena in the middle while Justin leaning more toward Martina and Serena leaning toward Lindsey. But really their style of play is quite similar if you watch their matches at BERLIN and Rome. Serena is just a touch more power while Justin a touch more finess.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 11th, 2002, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by tennisfun
Serena won Rome, Justin didn't give it to her. The only thing Justin is better than Serena is her touch at net, but not by much. Serena is much better off the baseline. Everyone talks about Justin's backhand. Yes, it's a beautiful shot, but more often than not she would hit a slice backhand. That's why players always pick on her backhand side when they play her , just like steffi. While Serena is lethal off both sides. Lindsey said that clearly at last year's US open when they asked her the difference playing Justin and Serena. As to power player and finess player, I think you can put lindsey as the extreme of power player while Martina the extreme of finess. And both Justin and Serena in the middle while Justin leaning more toward Martina and Serena leaning toward Lindsey. But really their style of play is quite similar if you watch their matches at BERLIN and Rome. Serena is just a touch more power while Justin a touch more finess.
First, it's Justine

Second, I don't know what Justine's matches you have seen, but she doesn't hit the slice more often than the topspin, by the contrary, she hits about 3 topspin for each slice, except when she is in a clear defensive position

Second, players don't hit more often to her backhand side, quite the opposite.

Third, I don't see similarities in style.

Fourth, Justine has more than a touch more finesse.

Fifth, Serena has more than a touch more power, I've seen both players in person and can tell you that Serena hits the ball way harder than Justine (or anyone else I've seen in person for that matter, with the only possible exception of Mary Pierce)

Sixth, I don't think you can compare Justine to Steffi, their game where way different, their weapons are very different and hence, their strategy to win points is very different. Steffi rarely hit a topspin backhand, her slice backhand was more offensive than Justine's and she relied heavily on the forehand, using the backhand mostly to set up the forehand that would win the point.

Justine's problem on the backhand side is that she often relies on it to make winners and some times overhits it, it's like when she has a chance to hit it, she wants to take advantage of it.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2002, 12:25 AM
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Well Serena's game is mostly based on her great power, but she has more than that too.

Serena hits awsome angles, and she really knows how to shorten the ball sometimes and angle it, to open up the court, I think she does that better than any of the other power players.

I like her slice, specially if you saw it in the RG final, she hit it ONE HANDED, and its actually a pretty good shot, she ocasionally sneaks in well desgised drop shots in the middle of a rally and her net game is getting better and better.

I don't think Serena wants to have a label as to what player she wants to be, but I know she loves to hit with pace. But When Serena's game is on, you have to notice.

It's not only power power power, She hits hard, with great angles, goes to the net, and has incredible acuracy off both sides. But I don't know if Serena wants to beconme "this" type of player or "that" type of player, what I do know is that she works on her game to improve the areas she needs improvement on, and that she plays a type of game she needs to win a match.

BTW, at the RG Semi's Serena did NOT throw her best power game at Jenn, Serena made a ton of unforced errors, and when she is playing well like in the 3rd, she makes much less errors and more winners, so no, i dont think that in the Semi's Jenn beat her in the power game area.
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2002, 12:30 AM
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Venus+Serena, I agree that Serena has more than power and speed.

Her serve is not only power, but a master shot, it's technique, not power.

She also has an excellent timing and anticipation which allows her to attack the opponent's serve so well.

I don't think her net game is that good, but no player is perfect, not even Justine
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