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?
Proud to be an American
Not blind. Not uninformed. We are party to atrocities. But the response of the world after 9/11 is worth noting. Even our most dire enemies offered aid. We should all be so lucky.