Finally and 'nuff said.
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Justine's dark side emerges on greatest day
June 07, 2003
SPRINGBOK coach Rudolf Straeuli has laid down the law for his nation's tilt at the World Cup. There will be no alcohol to drink, no sex to be had, no mobile phones to answer and no ping to be ponged.
No grog and no hanky panky are standard exclusions. We can understand those stipulations. Mobile phones are a distraction, too. But no ping pong. This man must be deadly serious. It can only be devastating news to the South African squad. Straeuli must be careful. Grown men suffering ping-pong withdrawal can turn reckless in a heart beat.
Straeuli's regime underlines what lengths sports people will go to if they believe they can snatch victory. We have seen other instances of it this week. Didn't like any of them. There is some grave doubt now over how far Chicago Cubs legend Sammy Sosa will push the limits. He has put new meaning into playing a corker.
He asks that we believe his story that he mistakenly used his exhibition bat that is cork-filled so he can clout the ball further. We are thinking that over.
At Roland Garros, Justine Henin-Hardenne discovered how far she will go to win. She might not like what she found. It might not worry her at all. Sadly, it should.
Sport sets an examination that tests all of us from top to bottom. From our head to our heart. Our hands, legs and lungs. Most of the questions are elementary and familiar. We know the answers before they are asked. How hard we will run. How much pain we will tolerate. How hot our lungs must burn before we yield. But there is always one that fundamentally tests your soul.
For the Belgian it came when she trailed 4-2 and 30-0 on Williams' serve in the third set of their semi-final. As Williams began her service action Henin-Hardenne held up her left hand to suggest she was not ready. The Williams serve found the net. The American looked to the umpire expecting her to allow her to replay her first serve.
However, the umpire did not see Henin-Hardenne raise her hand and allowed the fault to stand. At this very moment the Belgian woman was asked sport's most important question. Will you do anything to win? The Belgian's reply was anything and everything.
As Williams rightly discussed the point with the umpire, Henin-Hardenne stood by the baseline. She said nothing, did nothing. She should have indicated to the umpire that she had raised her hand in a bid to stop Williams' serve.
It was her duty but she did not. Winning, and only winning, had consumed her utterly.
Williams remained as composed as she could in the face of such poor sportsmanship. The crowd turned against her even more, booed and jeered, applauded her errors. She lost the match and a chance to win a fifth straight grand slam title.
Henin-Hardenne lost a lot more. Williams shook hands with her opponent after the match. It was as pointed as it was perfunctory. She did not shake hands with the chair umpire.
After the match Williams went to the standard news conference and sobbed as much as she had lobbed. "I was a little disappointed with her. It wasn't the turning point of the match, I should have still won the game, but to start lying and fabricating is not fair," Williams said.
She should not have said that, no matter how angry or provoked she felt. The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, find the balance of humility in victory and graciousness in defeat difficult to achieve. Williams did praise her opponent.
"She played very well today and probably deserved to win. She was the better player today. But it gets rather annoying if you're not serving well anyway and you miss your first serve and everybody's booing and screaming."
Henin-Hardenne paid her opponent no respect. She's had her chance so many times. Maybe it's time to give someone else a chance. Henin-Hardenne now plays her countrywoman Kim Clijsters in the final. We knew before she beat Williams that she could play tennis. Now we know there is absolutely nothing she will not do to win. We'll be rooting for Little Kim.
As for Sosa, he awaits a penalty for breaching baseball rules that say bats must be wood and nothing else. So far 76 of his bats have been tested and proved legal. So have five bats held in the Hall Of Fame. He may end up with the benefit of the doubt. Not for Henin-Hardenne, though.
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