Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay - TennisForum.com
View Poll Results: Where does Justine Henin rank all time on clay
clay court GOAT for women 2 9.09%
#2 all time on clay behind only Evert 5 22.73%
3rd to 5th all time on clay 8 36.36%
6th or 7th all time on clay 4 18.18%
Only 8th best all time on clay behind Graf, Seles, Wills Moody, Lenglen, Connolly, Evert, and Court 3 13.64%
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2012, 07:13 PM Thread Starter
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Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

Where do you think Justine Henin ranks all time on clay? I have heard varied opinions that range from 1st or 2nd best all time to way down to 7th or 8th.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2012, 08:18 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

I really don't think Justine, for all I like her game, is the 1st or 2nd best clay court player all time, no way. She was very good, but her results are greatly enhanced by the fact that she had little top quality opposition on clay in her time, not her fault, but seeing her dominance in Roland-Garros and other tournaments make you feel she was better than she actually was, from a historical perspective. Serena, the biggest player to show up since Seles, and the other top dogs (or bitches ) Venus, Davenport, Sharapova, and most of the topper echelon basically sucked on the surface, and only Clijsters, Capriati and Hingis were good clay courters (Mauresmo too, but she was a different player re level in Paris); Kuznetsova too, but she is in another league to me. So Justine had to deal with a far weaker competition on clay than Graf or Seles, who had to win their French, Rome, and other top titles against some top quality clay courters who would be very tough rivals to Henin, people the Belgian probably could defeat, but surely wouldn't dominate on clay such as Sánchez-Vicario, Sabatini and even Martínez. So, I'd rank her at least behind Evert, Graf, Seles, and on par with Sánchez-Vicario and Sabatini (who didn't win the French, I know, but we are talking about best clay court players and not about best players at the French, Sabatini beat every top, I mean very top player as Navratilova, Graf, Seles, Sánchez-Vicario, and also Pierce, Capriati, Martínez,etc, several times on the surface, and gave Evert a hard time too when Gabriela was very young). And I don't think a prime Justine would end up the winner on a clay court match against prime Seles, Graf or Evert, or against the best Navratilova, whose game on clay is unfairly not given its due since long ago, forgettin how good she was in her prime and how she beat every top player including Evert and Graf on this surface, reaching FIVE finals at the French, winning two and losing in three to Evert and Graf, which was not a shame BTW!

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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2012, 09:04 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

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Originally Posted by gabybackhand View Post
So, I'd rank her at least behind Evert, Graf, Seles, and on par with Sánchez-Vicario and Sabatini
ROTFL!!!!!!!!
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 15th, 2012, 10:59 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

If we are talking greatest of all time, then where are all the great claycourters of the past - and not just Suzanne Lenglen, Nancy Richey, Ann Jones, but a lot of the German players, South Africans, etc. Then we have to think of the players who were very, very good, and so also good on clay - Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court, Maureen Connolly, Helen Wills Moody.... I am not sure Justine would even make the top twenty... Evert is clearly the "Queen of Clay", though I would have liked to see a match between her and Suzanne Lenglen. I am sure the Divine One would have thrown all including the kitchen sink at Evert, including tantrums, time-outs, but I think even at Lenglen's very best the Ice Maiden would still have eked out a victory at Roland Garros 8-6 in the third set.
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 16th, 2012, 04:25 AM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

As it is hard to compare players from different eras the simplest and most impartial way to estimate is to just look at the number of Roland Garros titles, since it became open to the non French playes in 1925:

Chris Evert- 7
Steffi Graf- 6
Margaret Court- 5
Justine Henin- 4
Helen Wills Moody- 4

Based on that I would say Henin is #4 or #5 all time on clay. Maybe raising Seles to #2 where Graf's French Open total would put her and dropping Graf down to #6 or #7 based on the stabbing which effectively switched their likely careers around with one another on clay, which would keep Henin in roughly the same area she already is.

LOL at the suggestion Jones, Richey, or a South African player (no South African has ever even won a French Open singles title) would be anywhere near Henin on clay. There is a vast difference from disrespecting the past to well overrespecting and exagerrating them which is the direction some like to take as well.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 16th, 2012, 08:38 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

I had to say 8, and would've gone even lower. Hilde Sperling won 3 in a row just before WWII (correct me if I'm wrong), and all-time covers a lot of time and a hell of a lot of great players. Justine was my saving grace when Steffi retired. I admit, I did stop watching for over a year, but couldn't keep waiting to see if Graf would actually play again, but then marriage and babies came, and I knew that was it. Ironically, Justine really had a great deal of respect for Steffi, and Henin wasn't the type of player to give out compliments to the competition.

For the first few years of Henin's career, of course I feel in love with that backhand, but so many times she would stay back after a great shot, I just wanted to reach through the TV and give her a push. When she finally did get her more complete, all-court game together, the French and other big clay titles started to give her hard-fought results. Even Martina remarked more than once that Henin was #1 because she put the work in and was the fittest out there. We're talking a 5'5" firecracker who got as fit as she could, and was winning against amazon women who didn't construct points, just hit winners off any ball, which usually were returns. Billie Jean King and Justine were/are the same size. I'm sure BJK can attest, it takes a special talent to be able to weather the storm and get the big opponent on the run. Justine would (IMO) be in the top 3 or 4 had she gotten a grip on her game earlier. I do wish Amelia Mauresmo would've been healthy for longer patches, because judging by their Wimbledon final (best of the 90s IMO), that might have been a great rivalry. It has to be said of Justine that she got the most out of her game and her body- lots of players don't.

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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 03:02 AM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

At her best, I think Justine would rank below Evert and Court. I think she would be very close to Graf and a bit better than Seles or Navratilova and definitely better tha ASV or Martinez. It is true that today's game is not geared for diversity of surfaces, so that most players do not much alter their games for clay court tennis. Justine did, which is why she was the best of her era on clay. The main problem Justine would have against Graf and Seles would be mental. I do think that, technically, she has the better clay court game than either Steffi or Monica. I also think she would give Chris and Court a very hard time too. She was a better athlete than Chris, but not as mentally strong. It would have been fascinating to see them play at their best. I do think that Court, at her best, would be Evert's equal on clay. For me, the modern game began about 1960, when competiton became much stronger than in the 20's or 30's. The 40's and 50's were tough eras too but mostly American eras, also the game was much different then too.
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 04:25 AM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

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At her best, I think Justine would rank below Evert and Court. I think she would be very close to Graf and a bit better than Seles or Navratilova and definitely better tha ASV or Martinez. It is true that today's game is not geared for diversity of surfaces, so that most players do not much alter their games for clay court tennis. Justine did, which is why she was the best of her era on clay. The main problem Justine would have against Graf and Seles would be mental. I do think that, technically, she has the better clay court game than either Steffi or Monica. I also think she would give Chris and Court a very hard time too. She was a better athlete than Chris, but not as mentally strong. It would have been fascinating to see them play at their best. I do think that Court, at her best, would be Evert's equal on clay. For me, the modern game began about 1960, when competiton became much stronger than in the 20's or 30's. The 40's and 50's were tough eras too but mostly American eras, also the game was much different then too.
The big hypothetical for me would be to see how Henin would play with a standard size frame. Her biggest problem was and would have been entirely mental against Graf, who was tough as nails, and an idol of Justine's. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Henin was raised from a very early age on red clay, and that can't be taught.

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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 05:27 AM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

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At her best, I think Justine would rank below Evert and Court. I think she would be very close to Graf and a bit better than Seles or Navratilova and definitely better tha ASV or Martinez. It is true that today's game is not geared for diversity of surfaces, so that most players do not much alter their games for clay court tennis. Justine did, which is why she was the best of her era on clay. The main problem Justine would have against Graf and Seles would be mental. I do think that, technically, she has the better clay court game than either Steffi or Monica. I also think she would give Chris and Court a very hard time too. She was a better athlete than Chris, but not as mentally strong. It would have been fascinating to see them play at their best. I do think that Court, at her best, would be Evert's equal on clay. For me, the modern game began about 1960, when competiton became much stronger than in the 20's or 30's. The 40's and 50's were tough eras too but mostly American eras, also the game was much different then too.
But Evert --at 15 years of age, which is evert at her worst-- beat court (having won the grand slam) in straight sets.... and the only set she ever got from evert on clay was when chris choked her 1st grand slam final away @ the french final serving up a set & 5-4, with margaret getting that title. That doesnt make a good case for her as a great clay court player

Not a knock on Court, because she fully earned those titles, but I tend to believe that Court's french open wins have more to do with being an all-time great & 'tennis giant' during a time when 3 of 4 slams were on grass & therefore built very few quality clay players...not so much that she's great on the surface.

Certainly in a h2h, I think Henin would take advantage of Court's stiff mobility & would not be intimidated by Court's pace, but rather would enjoy it quite a bit... and that would frustrate Court a LOT. So based on that, would give JH's 4 wins over MC's 5 any day. It is Henin's BEST surface, and Court's WORST.

Last edited by daze11; Apr 17th, 2012 at 05:34 AM.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 06:19 AM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

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At her best, I think Justine would rank below Evert and Court. I think she would be very close to Graf and a bit better than Seles or Navratilova and definitely better tha ASV or Martinez. It is true that today's game is not geared for diversity of surfaces, so that most players do not much alter their games for clay court tennis. Justine did, which is why she was the best of her era on clay. The main problem Justine would have against Graf and Seles would be mental. I do think that, technically, she has the better clay court game than either Steffi or Monica. I also think she would give Chris and Court a very hard time too. She was a better athlete than Chris, but not as mentally strong. It would have been fascinating to see them play at their best. I do think that Court, at her best, would be Evert's equal on clay. For me, the modern game began about 1960, when competiton became much stronger than in the 20's or 30's. The 40's and 50's were tough eras too but mostly American eras, also the game was much different then too.
I agree with all you said. Especialy about the part that prime Henin facing prime Graf or prime Seles on clay it would mostly come down to how mentally tough she could be, as game wise she could definitely compete with and beat either on clay.

I think it is hard to guage Henin's mental toughness as the only place it is tested is hard courts. On clay she is far superior to her peers of her era. On grass she is simply too overmatched by the Williams sisters and doesnt get opportunities to play Davenport, Sharapova, and other top grass courters ever it seems. The one place in her career I could see a possible major failing of nerves in her prime was the 2006 Wimbledon final with Mauresmo, and maybe the 2007 Miami final with Serena. She showed major conquests of nerves more often though like the 2003 U.S Open semis, 2003 French Open semis, final set of the 2004 Australian Open where she overcame briefly failing nerves, 2007 WTA Championships final. Still probably she ranks down of Graf, Seles, or Evert in that category, which could make the difference in a head to head confrontation. Court is potrayed as struggling with nerves but I think that is mostly a myth.
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 02:29 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

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But Evert --at 15 years of age, which is evert at her worst-- beat court (having won the grand slam) in straight sets.... and the only set she ever got from evert on clay was when chris choked her 1st grand slam final away @ the french final serving up a set & 5-4, with margaret getting that title. That doesnt make a good case for her as a great clay court player

Not a knock on Court, because she fully earned those titles, but I tend to believe that Court's french open wins have more to do with being an all-time great & 'tennis giant' during a time when 3 of 4 slams were on grass & therefore built very few quality clay players...not so much that she's great on the surface.

Certainly in a h2h, I think Henin would take advantage of Court's stiff mobility & would not be intimidated by Court's pace, but rather would enjoy it quite a bit... and that would frustrate Court a LOT. So based on that, would give JH's 4 wins over MC's 5 any day. It is Henin's BEST surface, and Court's WORST.
There were several great and outstanding clay court players in the Court era. The European players were better on clay because all their tournaments, outside of England, were clay events. The British Hard Court tournament, was actually caly. As far as Evert beating Court in 70 at age 15, that is sort of like Evert losing to a very young Seles. Neither Court or Evert expected the young players to be good enough to beat them, so did not have the mindset before play began, that they could lose. If Clay was Court's worst surface, she still managed to win many clay court tournaments. I would like to know what her winning % was on clay. Not as good as Evert's, no doubt, but probably as good as Justine's or Graf's. Court and Graf were probably the two greatest all surface players since 1960. One can only beat the best players of Their era to be the best of that era.
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 03:20 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

Court should not really have been surprised at Evert - she had been playing tournaments throughout 1970, albeit carefully selected ones. Also, in the round before she played Court in 1970, she had demolished Francoise Durr 6-0, 6-1!
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 06:45 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

Regarding Court, and to some extent Goolagong, it must be said that Australia, outside of the coastal cities, is one big, no giant red clay court. Both Margaret and Evonne had a lot of experience on what they called dirt courts. I think both Court and Goolagong could've handled Henin with the standard frame in her hands.

Evert, of course, grew up on Florida American clay courts (a surface I always despised), and developed a great game for it. We are again, comparing apples and oranges here. I doubt Justine Henin would have done nearly as well with a standard size frame. The frame alone would limit Henin's ability to hit such violent, heavily topspun groundies. She (IMO) would've had trouble retrieving Evert's relentless drives from both forehand and backhand, all hit with the same standard frame. If there is anyone here who has never hit with wood- give it a try some time, but beware your arm will be sore for a couple of days- it still amazes me how they could play all day with such a heavy racquet.

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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 07:32 PM
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

Well, I agree that everyone can have his/her opinion, but I don't think the French results obtained by a player should only be taken into account. In fact, this thread is about a given player's stature on clay, not in the French Open history, so ruling out any other tournamente would be highly misleading re the goal of this thread. I mean, the French is the most important title on clay, but there are other tournaments which are also important, especially when talking about clay court performance overall and considering how the French itself was regarded for some time, especially in late 70s. Of course, any good clay court player must have had some good results at Roland-Garros to be regarded like that, but it's not the only thing that matters. In that perspective, even if Justine won one more French than Seles, I'd never consider her better than Monica, simply because the level of play and dominance reached by Seles surpassed Henin's, especially considering the opposition. I really think Henin one of the best in history on this surface, around 5th or 6th overall, and accepting the fact that I don't really think I am able to compare Court equally (I have seen too little of the Reverend), but Evert, Graf, Seles and the best Navratilova (who could beat just everybody on her prime), would always be above the talented Belgian.
Regarding Sánchez Vicario, I think we've seen enough of what she could do especially on clay against some tremendous players such as Graf and Seles, the fact that she took THREE titles at the French and reached 3 more finals and won lots of other clay tournaments except Rome, how she beat everybody on the surface (not the best Seles but still the Seles that beat Henin MOST of the time, overweight and everything), so the Bumblebee has earned credit big time on this surface to be denied of respect. And just remember how many wouldn’t give a dime for her against Graf for instance, and how she ended up taking big titles, especially when her rival was in perfect health and there were no handicaps.
And Sabatini didn't win a French nor reached the finals, but reached 5 SF losing only to Graf, Seles and Evert at that stage, and also won a lot of big matches beating EVERYBODY on clay and winning all the other important clay titles several times, so she has some big results added to her big game on the surface. She may not be in the top five players, but just as some others posted about Henin, the difference between her and Graf, Seles or Evert was only mental: did you see any reason tennis-wise why she shouldn’t have one her 87 or 92 SFs at the French, or the R16 match in 1986 against Evert? What would have been her results or would she have ended up without a French title had she played any top player (Hingis, Capriati, Clijsters, Kuznetsova, Pierce, Williams, Henin herself) other than very PRIME Graf or Seles? Henin is above her or Sánchez Vicario for her results, but these depend greatly on who you have to play and of course are relevant, but as a clay court player there’s no that big a difference, if any. I’ve watched tennis many years and I just don’t take into account the results without a context; by that criteria I’d have to say that Majoli and Myskina are better clay court players than Sabatini or Martínez because they won the French and the latter didn’t, which is not the case. Not to me at least, and everyone is entitled to have his criteria. And as I stated before we’re talking about clay court players, which includes the results and level of tennis played in at least the main clay court tournaments along a career and not only the French, which would be a different topic.
I must say, though, that I can't include players before the Open Era as I really know too little about them and have hardly seen them play, and I also believe that tennis since around mid seventies is quite a different sport and I’m not so sure really old champions could do that well in the modern era. Anyway, I don’t think they’re much comparable, so I guess we could only elaborate about Open Era players GOATs.

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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old Apr 17th, 2012, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Where does Justine Henin rate all time on clay

When Seles was beating Henin, I would say Henin was even further from her best than Seles. The Henin of 2001-2002 sucked, she was losing every match to Davenport, Clijsters, Venus, even Hantuchova, as well. She was basically the weakest player in the top 10 and easy for any of the other top players to dominate. Even in early 2003 she was crushed by Venus on rebound ace, barely got games from Clijsters in a couple matches, got crushed by Chanda freaking Rubin in Miami. Suddenly in mid 2003 Henin went from losing every match to Davenport, Clijsters, old Seles, to winning every match against them, and Clijsters improved herself and still went from owning Henin to being owned by her. That shows there is an enormous gap between Justine of 2002-earlier to Justine of mid 2003-beyond, even if the span of time is only a year or two. Also just look at Henin's slam results in 2002: AO- only 5 games in quarters vs Clijstes, FO- lost 1st round to Kapros, U.S Open- lost 4th round to Hantuchova. She was about 30% the player of the 7 slam champion she would start to become next year.

Anyway Seles never beat Henin on clay. Henin won her only grass (in mid 2002, when Henin still sucked) and clay matches with Seles easily. Most of their matches were slow outdoor hard courts and indoors, where all agree Seles is a better player, so not surprisingly with neither in their primes Seles won most of them.

As for Sanchez Vicario in 1998, the year she won her 3rd French Open, she lost to VENUS WILLIAMS on clay, then was being killed by a baby Serena at the French, before Serena choked badly on the verge of an easy straight sets win. Yet we are to think Henin who is a way better clay courter than the likes of the Williams wouldnt be better than Sanchez on clay, the same Sanchez who while still near her best was being outplayed by the Williams well before their primes on clay. Not a chance. For you to also be using Sanchez beating Seles at the 98 French as showing her superior on clay to Henin, that is hilarious. If Seles was "the same Seles" according to you that only shows how far superior Henin is. Sanchez most of the time still at her best (until 1998, or perhaps even until 200) went something like 2-8 vs post stabbing Seles, and lost almost every clay match. Henin nowhere near her own best yet went 3-4 vs post stabbing Seles, and crushed Seles in their only clay meeting. If say the 2007 Henin ever got to play the post stabbing Seles on clay, Seles probably would have only gotten a few games, but then look what happened when the 96 Sanchez really at her peak was playing the post stabbing Seles on clay and other surfaces.

Last edited by mistymore; Apr 17th, 2012 at 10:41 PM.
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