No. 1 Henin Prospering With Lighter Schedule
NO. 1 HENIN PROSPERING WITH LIGHTER SCHEDULE
Published: Friday, August 17, 2007
TORONTO - In 2003, Justine Henin won the French and U.S. Opens and reached the final in 11 of the 18 tournaments she entered.
A year later, the women's world No. 1 tennis player burnt out, like so many workaholics.
Her weakened immune system was attacked by illness after illness and Henin was forced to miss Wimbledon and several other tournaments. But it was not until she injured her knee at the start of the 2005 season that the 25-year-old Belgium learned to tone down her schedule.
After that, I realized that was too much for my body," said Henin, the top-seeded player at this week's Rogers Cup.
Henin is certainly travelling lighter these days. She arrived here without any luggage, thanks to an airline losing it. And she entered the event having played fewer tournaments than any other top-seeded player in the draw.
But with five titles to her credit, the diminutive player is proving that less is more.
"I'm not able to play so much like many other players, but it's OK," said Henin, who defeated China's Shuai Peng 7-5, 6-2 yesterday to advance to the quarterfinals.
Jelena Jankovic, on the other hand, may be the anti-Henin.
The second-seeded Serb, who defeated Austria's Sybille Bammer 6-2, 6-3 last night, is competing in her 21st tournament of the year. But the 22-year-old admitted it might be taking a toll on her body.
"In the middle of the second set, I started to have pain in my stomach, like somebody put a knife in it," said Jankovic, adding it may not have been performance-related. "I can be honest. I think I am getting women's thing."
Jankovic's hectic schedule is ultimately the result of not believing in herself. At the beginning of the year, she figured that she would not last beyond the first or second round in many tournaments. But to her surprise, she has reached the final of six events and won all but two.
"Obviously, I didn't expect to win this many matches, but I think I've done quite well and it's been a great year so far for me," said Jankovic. "I will play a lot less in the second half of the season. I don't want to play like I did in the first half, because it was too much and I don't think my body can hold up."
Henin, meanwhile, has won five of the nine tournaments she has competed in this year. But the lightened workload has not helped the injury-prone player become invincible.
After losing in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, Henin took five weeks off to heal a sore right wrist. While on holidays, she managed to injure her other wrist.
But neither hand seems to be bothering her. On Wednesday, she cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory against Slovakia's Andreja Klepac. Yesterday, a mid-afternoon breeze seemed to give Henin more trouble than her 58th-seeded opponent.
"It was tough out there, I can tell you," said Henin, who broke her opponent's serve five times in the first set and another three times in the second.
"For the players, it's terrible conditions. It's hard, because it's tough to say where the wind comes from. And it's turning a lot in the stadium.