Justine Article from Jacksonville, Florida Writer -- A must-read for Juju fans!
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Justine making it look routine
Henin-Hardenne rolls past Seles into semis
By Laurie Cason, Times-Union sports writer
AMELIA ISLAND -- In last year's Bausch & Lomb Championships final, fans watched in disbelief as Justine Henin-Hardenne let a 6-4, 4-0 lead against Venus Williams slip through her hands.
And when Williams rallied to win the match in a third-set tiebreaker, it was with quiet dignity that Henin-Hardenne congratulated her opponent and promised that her own time was still to come.
Henin-Hardenne's time has arrived.
Her newfound mental toughness, cat-like quickness and explosive one-handed ground strokes were on display yesterday morning as Henin-Hardenne routed Monica Seles 6-2, 6-4.
"She was playing some great tennis today," Seles said. "She just served so much better than I did -- I didn't have too many chances on her serve. And even when I served, I had a struggling time holding my serve. She's a quick player. She's always been. I think she's just playing with a lot of more confidence."
That confidence got a big boost a week ago when Henin-Hardenne defeated top-ranked Serena Williams in straight sets at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., capturing her second championship this year.
"I was so happy to beat Serena and win the tournament, but sometimes in tennis you never know what can happen," Henin-Hardenne said. "For sure, it gave me a lot of confidence. And my best surface is clay, I think, so I feel more comfortable on this surface. But I think for the next tournament, for the next month, for the rest of my career it's going to help, this kind of matches, this kind of wins. And I'm still very young. I still have a lot of things to learn. It's one more experience."
Having slain the Williams dragon, Henin-Hardenne is poised to climb the WTA rankings and her sights are set on making it to the top. Reaching at least the quarterfinals in each of the six tournaments she has played this year, fourth-ranked Henin-Hardenne may be the favorite when she seeks her first Grand Slam title on her favored clay surface next month at the French Open in Paris.
"I think that I have everything to go there [reach No. 1]," Henine-Hardenne said. "But I think the most difficult thing is, mentally, that you have to be strong enough to support all this pressure and to win many matches against the top players, the Williams [sisters] and the others in the top 10. You have to be strong mentally and you have to be very solid during all year. I think I'm doing pretty well now, but I'm only 20. I'll have all my time to do my goals and we will see."
Reluctant to look too far ahead, however, Henin-Hardenne is focusing on today's semifinal match against No.21 Elena Dementieva, a straight-sets winner yesterday against Daniela Hantuchova. Henin-Hardenne hasn't dropped a set to Dementieva in any of their three career meetings, all in 2002.
If Henin-Hardenne continues her winning streak, she will have the chance tomorrow to claim the Bausch & Lomb Championships title that eluded her a year ago.
This year, Henin-Hardenne is better prepared to win that title. And probably quite a few others. It's a state of mind top players such as Lindsay Davenport can't help but recognize.
"It seems she's gotten over the hump of being a player like [Nos.] 5 through 8 and making the next jump into the top four and beating the people consistently that she feels she should beat," Davenport said. "She's winning titles and making it to the latter rounds of tournaments -- that's the sign of someone who has gotten over the toughest hurdle in tennis and that's the jump to the very top of the game."
Last edited by auntie janie; Apr 19th, 2003 at 01:03 PM.