Henin Wins A Lucky 7th Grand Slam Title
Justine Henin Cements A Place As One Of The Greats, Dominating At The U.S. Tennis Open
NEW YORK, Sept. 9, 2007
Psst. The name is Justine Henin. Get to know her.
Might just be one of the greatest tennis players ever. Is certainly the undisputed No. 1 at the moment. As of Saturday night, she owns two U.S. Open championships and seven Grand Slam titles overall.
So let's get that correct. Everybody now: Justine Henin.
Overwhelming No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-3 in the final, the top-seeded Henin capped a dominating run through the U.S. Open in which she didn't drop a set and became the first woman to win a major title while beating both Williams sisters along the way.
"This one is maybe the most important one. The quality I played in the last few matches has been amazing, and it's a great feeling, because I had a tough draw," said Henin, the 2003 Open champion. "I had a lot of things to prove to myself. Not to anyone else, but to myself. And I did it."
Yet both times she conquered New York, someone got her name wrong during the postmatch trophy-and-check ceremony.
Four years ago, a representative of the main U.S. Open sponsor called her "Christine." On Saturday night, CBS announcer Dick Enberg referred to her as "Justine Henin-Hardenne" - even though she dropped the hyphenated part after separating from her husband at the beginning of the year.
That split was why Henin skipped the Australian Open; otherwise, she might have another major title to her credit.
Instead, she'll have to settle for two Slams in 2007, including her fourth French Open title in five years, shortly after reconciling with her estranged father and siblings.
"The fact that I have my family back in my life helps a lot, for sure," she said. "That gives me peace."
That French final was a rout, too, with Henin losing a total of three games against Ana Ivanovic. Henin is making a habit of these lopsided title matches: Kuznetsova's four games matched the fewest for a U.S. Open runner-up in the past 31 years.
"The match was much closer than the score, for sure," said Kuznetsova, who might have been trying to persuade herself, given that she is now 2-15 against Henin.
"When she plays her best game I have to play my best game. I didn't," the Russian added.
And don't forget, Kuznetsova is hardly a nobody. She won the 2004 U.S. Open, was the runner-up at the 2006 French Open - losing to Henin - and will rise to No. 2 in the rankings Monday.
Still, the only help Henin needed was when she got a boost from a couple of fans while she climbed into the stands to greet her coach after the match ended.
Henin was simply spectacular, just as she was while defeating Serena Williams in the quarterfinals and Venus Williams in the semifinals.
In the men's final Sunday, No. 1 Roger Federer will meet No. 3 Novak Djokovic. Federer is aiming to become the first man since the 1920s to win the American Grand Slam four years in a row, while Djokovic will be playing in his first major final.
Federer beat No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 Saturday, after Djokovic eliminated No. 15 David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
If it wasn't clear already, Henin has cemented her status as the No. 1 woman in the game today.
Just how good has she been this year? She won a tour-leading seven titles while going 50-4 at 11 tournaments.
Against Kuznetsova, Henin finished with a 25-11 edge in winners and saved all six break points she faced, including three in the final game.
She showed off all aspects of her versatile talent, from volleys - winning the point on 13 of 16 trips to the net - to passing shots on the run to returns of serve, punctuating plenty of winners with fist pumps and shouts of "Allez!"
There were similar displays against Venus Williams, more emotion than Henin used to show on court - something she attributes to being happier and healthier these days.
Against Kuznetsova, Henin missed her trademark backhand on the match's first two points, then went to work, taking nine of the next 10 points. Even when she faltered, double-faulting twice in a row, she recovered to hold for a 4-0 lead, throwing her 5-foot-5, 125-pound frame into a 110 mph service winner and a 98 mph second-serve ace.
Now that's gutsy.
"I'm really proud, not being that tall - and I can compete and be the best player in the world," Henin said. "Not a lot of people really thought I could do it."
With things headed in one direction, a fan perhaps hoping for something more competitive - or wishing an American were involved - yelled out, "Let's go, Venus!"
She was long gone, as was her sister, while Henin broke a tie with Venus for most major titles among active women and moved closer to Serena's total of eight.
Yep, one more time, "Justine Henin" is being engraved on a silver trophy.
"When I was a little girl, I was dreaming of winning just one Grand Slam in my career, and I've won seven," Henin said. "It's still hard to believe."