A Family Affair......article on Justine
Except my apology if this article has been posted before!
A family affair by: Peter Bodo, TENNIS.com November 12, 2007
There are athletes we love, and athletes we hate, and athletes we love to hate, and those we hate to love. The great thing about Justine Henin, the almost pathologically shy, mortifyingly self-absorbed winner of Sunday's WTA year-end championships, is that she is, or has been, all of the above.
Woo-hoo, psychodrama! Nobody does that better than Henin.
Nothing makes the point better than looking at where Henin was at the start of the year, and where she is now. In January, she was sequestered in Belgium, working through a painful divorce from her husband, Pierre-Yves Hardenne. She skipped the Australian Open for humanitarian reasons (she was having to deal with being human). And she was coming off a year in which she had been roughed up in two Grand Slam finals by Amelie Mauresmo (Remember her? She's the one whose picture is on the milk carton alongside your box of Capt'n Crunch), and bombarded by Maria Sharapova in another to end the year.
To add insult to injury, when Henin did return to the tour at Miami in late March, Serena Williams, fresh off an overpowering win in Australia, used her as a prop to advance her own reputation as the fiercest competitor in the women's game. But Henin put an end to that, right quick, in the French Open and, although she lost to Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, she subsequently went on an eight-month rampage that erased any doubt about who rules the women's game -- or who brings the most to the court, and leaves the most on it when she departs.
Given the fact that Henin missed one major and lost in another in 2007, her record is astonishing. She put up a winning percentage of .940, on a 63-4 record; that's the best since Steffi Graf turned in a .977 season in 1989. Although Henin picks her spots, she managed to play 14 tournaments and make the case that it's crazy, as well as futile, for the WTA to expect her to play more. She won 10 of those events (and held double-match point in Miami against Serena) -- the most since Martina Hingis in 1997.
If I had to go all armchair psychologist and explain why this, why now, I'd say that the turning point in Henin's year -- and perhaps her career -- was her reconciliation with her family. Her longtime estrangement from them ended shortly after her eldest brother, David, was seriously injured in an April car crash. Justine turned up by his side, and by the time the French Open unfolded in late May, her siblings were present at a pro tournament for the first time in her career. In an emotional victory speech, Justine dedicated her masterful win at Roland Garros to the family she once again had.
In a way, this was very Justine; she may be disquietingly intense and lacking the humor gene, but she has a singular talent for distilling her closely guarded and undeniably deep emotions into mental and emotional fuel.
It was a long road back for Henin. And a long trip requires a lot of fuel.