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View Full Version : Pressure getting to Henin?


JonBcn
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:54 PM
from: http://foxsports.lycos.com/content/view?contentId=388316

Interesting article from fox sports - Justine sounds a little vulnerable, although I think it might be slightly over-critical of her performances this year. Or does one bad match = a slump?

BY MATTHEW CRONIN
********************
Mar. 13, 2002 1:17 a.m.


While it's not unusual to see athletes go into sophomore slumps, it's a bit odd when the player herself more or less predicts it's going to happen when the season is only 10 weeks old.

But after she was crushed 6-3, 6-3 by talented Slovakian 18-year-old Daniela Hantuchova in the third round of the Pacific Life Open, the 19-year-old Henin said that the pressure of being a Wimbledon finalist and top-10er is already getting to her.

"She's a young player. She has nothing to lose," Henin said of Hantuchova, the smooth-swinging, ultra-confident granddaughter of a one-time Slovakian No.1 women's player. "I didn't play a good match. She played so well. I was too nervous at the beginning and couldn't develop my game. I practiced with her a few days ago and I could feel she was playing so well. Maybe I was a little bit afraid of this match. I'm a little frustrated. It's a little bit sad."

The funny thing about Henin is that as well as she played last year in reaching the Roland Garros semis and then toppling red-hot Jennifer Capriati to reach the Wimbledon final (where she pushed Venus Williams to three sets), she felt like she had major improvements to make. This year, she began her campaign by losing to Venus in the final of the Gold Coast, then falling to countrywoman Kim Clijsters at both Sydney and the Australian Open. She then lost to Monica Seles in Paris and fell to Venus against in the final of Antwerp.

She has beaten plenty of good but not great players in '02, including Anna Kournikova, Daja Bedanova, Barbara Schett, Elena Dementieva and Nathalie Dechy. The gritty woman who helped lead her tiny nation of Belgium to the '02 Fed Cup title seems to think that she has to rework her serve entirely to make a larger step in the game, rather then just making gradual improvements.

The result on Monday in Indian Wells was eight double faults, a horrific 42.5 percent winning percentage on her service points and 24 unforced errors to only nine winners.

"She was an outsider like I was last year," Henin said of the composed Hantuchova, who so sure of herself that she declined an invitation to play doubles with Martina Navratilova. "That's the difference. She's not asking a lot of questions in her head. She just tries to hit everything. She can be strong. Last year I was an outsider, now I'm in the top 10. It's different."

What we have here is a super-intense, non-nonsense person and player who is too tightly wound up about her prospects and is in danger of letting all her parts break while trying to improve one.

"I couldn't play my game," said Henin, whose famed backhand completely went to pot in the second set. "When it's like this, I can't serve very well. When you're not ready emotionally, its hard to develop your game. My serve was good sometimes and other times I double-faulted."

Without getting overly technical, Henin — who served with some effectiveness last year — has changed her service stance and knee bend. Now, she bends her left knee twice before she strikes the ball and as a result, is making contact at too low of a point and parking her serve. Why the change?

"I changed the movement because I wasn't consistent enough," Henin said. "I worked very hard on it. It's going to take some months to fix it. I think that when I'm well in my head and when I'm playing well, my serve is fine.

"Physically, it's easier for me to serve like this. I lost a lot of matches with my serve last year so we decided to change it. In a lot of matches, it's going to be better. Today was a little bit worse."

There are some observers who already believe that Henin will not win even one Grand Slam in her career, because she is too small, takes too big of a swing and despite her wondrous shotmaking, does not have a money shot to go to.

But this is specious reasoning, because a big part of winning Slams is commitment, competitiveness, heart and guts. Henin has all of these elements and merely needs to take it easy on herself and allow her game to flourish naturally, rather than force change. She seems willing to weather the storm.

"It takes time to make an adaptation," Henin said. Sometimes it takes months to accept this situation. I can accept this situation. But sometimes it's a lot of pressure. I have to work on it and live with it."

saki
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:06 PM
Thanks for that. :)

I think the writer is a bit harsh about Henin's decision to change her service action. It's obviously going to take some adjusting to, and she is going to be prone to lots of double faults to begin with but hopefully it'll pay off after a couple of months and throughout her career. That said, I haven't yet seen her new service action so can't judge.

"There are some observers who already believe that Henin will not win even
one Grand Slam in her career, because she is too small, takes too big of a
swing and despite her wondrous shotmaking, does not have a money shot to
go to."

Hmmm. Height only really matters when it comes to serve & Justine's serve is actually rather good. She doesn't have a particularly big swing - this seems to be a preconception that lots of people make about her. And she has "money shots" - her backhand and her volleys when she comes into net.

"But this is specious reasoning, because a big part of winning Slams is
commitment, competitiveness, heart and guts. "

Yes, of course, but I don't like the implication that that is all Justine has going for her.

sartrista7
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:09 PM
Interesting article. Henin *is* super-intense and hyper-critical and all the rest, but I don't think too much can be read into this particular loss. Hantuchova's playing very well at the moment, and is a VERY talented player; true, Justine was off, but on its own it doesn't mean too much. And it's not as if her results have been sub-par this year: she's playing far closer to the Henin of Wimbledon than the pre-2001 Henin, and a Slam QF and Tier II final is nothing to sneeze at. And she continues to show that, of the up'n'comers, she's the one who can make the biggest dent in Venus Williams' game. Venus' comments about Justine are reminiscent of Martina Hingis' comments about Venus 1997-98, when she was generally beating her easily, but even then she could see that Venus would give her a lot of trouble in the future. It's not a sophomore slump - Elena Dementieva's 2001 (and 2002 thus far :rolleyes: ) was a sophomore slump.

Still, there ARE problems here which Justine needs to address. Nerves are clearly still a problem - scared of a match with a younger player because of a practise session? And she continues to have a mental block about beating Kim Clijsters. I think her interview was a case of over-criticism, though. She's a perfectionist, and was naturally quite down after letting an opportunity to get to the final slip by.

brickhousesupporter
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:25 PM
I dont think it is the pressure so much. I believe it has to do with the natural order of the universe. Justine like many players rose quite quickly in the ranking and this was a spike in their career. I do think that she is settling down to her steady state level. She may never be in the top 5 but i feel she will be a very consistent 6-12 player. I dont think that she will never win a slam, as anything is possible. Her best chance to win a slam should be at the french open where she can take those big loopy swing and will not be penalized as much. this is just my humble opinion.

thefreedesigner
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:30 PM
The article isn't up to much, but thanks for posting it anyway Jon!

I'm not amazingly worried about Justine losing to Dani because i) Justine didn't play well, and ii) Dani did.

Justine has only played one good match this year (the final in antwerp against Venus). Again, not a problem. How many truly good - as opposed to just another day at the office - have any of the Top Ten played this year? Monica beating Venus springs to mind... Amelie beating Monica.... Jelena beating Monica and Dementieva...Martina beating Monica.

Justine was not the better player in her match against Anna Kournikova this year, but she won. Good sign.

Let's not make it more complicated than it is.

She's just low on confidence, she's said it herself: "I think when I'm well in my head and when I'm playing well, my serve is fine. So that's not the problem. "

A lot of the problems are mental, and it maybe that she'll never get over them. But that's for another day (and year).

The pressure-confidence continuum.

Martian Martin
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:30 PM
I would say she probably is being too critical of herself, I think she also knew she had a fantastic chance to get to the final with the draw opening up, so that probably played a part in her being so negative. I have to say though when I saw her match against Daniela on Eurosport yesterday, I was very very surprised with her new service motion, just doesn't look right.
I think also the stress of being in the top 10 does get to you because you are expected to win every match, or well certainly most matches and I think she'll feel pressure in trying to keep up with Kim.

maccardel
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:44 PM
Well Henin is still new to the top 10 and we shouldn't expect too much in terms of consistency. The only reason we rank the top players as martina.venus,lindsay,serena and so forth is that these players are mainstays in the top 10 and justine like kim and jelena are the new breed that just arrived there and one day they will have mastered their game enough to make it to the top.....right now they are playing like top ten players this includes Alex and schiavone but they are still learning and I do not hold anything against them....it's just a pleasure to watch them come into their own right before my eyes.....

One way Justine can improve is to try another coach for a while. That carlos is a pain to see with all the insults he throws at her.....that I think is affecting her game.

Infiniti2001
Mar 13th, 2002, 03:54 PM
I'm usually critcal of writers -- but in this case it's not necessary... After all , this writer pretty much based his article on Justine's own words... Of course many top players will give lower ranked players their props --- in henin's case she freely admits that daniela psyched her out .... Oh well , what do I know?? I'm stupid :P

Deira
Mar 13th, 2002, 04:21 PM
I also think Justine should try a new coach. Not everyone responds to the "drill sergeant" mentality. Being beat down off the court mentally by your coach does not make for a smooth transition to the court. Maybe this fool has become/is a father figure for her. Justine is too talented to put up with that crap. She's the one who has to play the game and not her egotistical coach.

Fingon
Mar 13th, 2002, 05:44 PM
I think Justine is not mentally ready yet to be consistently a top player, she admitted it herself, she doesn't feel comfortable in that position, she needs some time.

About those that say she doesn't have a weapon, or she has a big backswing, well, they obviously have never seen her play, that's the normal misconception that if you have a one-handed backhand you have a big backswing, actually, she has a bigger swing on the forehand side, I am sure the article of that article must be a baseball writer that is writing about tennis.

[quote[Without getting overly technical, Henin — who served with some effectiveness last year — has changed her service stance and knee bend. Now, she bends her left knee twice before she strikes the ball and as a result, is making contact at too low of a point and parking her serve. Why the change? [/quote]

Obviously, this guy has no clue, when did Justine serve with efectiveness? I think he has just confused the names.

About the coach, I have been thinking the same myself, of course, when something goes wrong, the coach is the first victim, as in other sports. He did a wonderful job in the technical aspects of Justine's game, but he is not helping her to prepare mentally to be at the top. There is an article on him being extremely harsh to Justine and I can't understand how she stayed with him after that.

I believe that one thing Justine needs to do is to be less schematic, on that I agree with the author, she needs to let her talent to flow naturally, her backhand is a shot that nobody taught her, it's natural and that's why it's so good, all the rest should be the same.

The Crow
Mar 13th, 2002, 06:15 PM
I'm kinda have mixed feelings about Justine's progress atm. I don't really give too much attention to the loss against Daniela, but her loosing records against (almost?) all topplayers worries me. Especially her only good match of this year (as someone called it), the Antwerp final against Venus. In the beginning of the third she was clearly the better player, but she lost 3 of her own service games while in all three 40-15 or something up. That's unfortunately so typically Justine, and I'm not sure if this will ever change.

And she really had to work on that serve. Everybody can see their is much more potential in that serve than she gets out of it.

saby
Mar 13th, 2002, 09:06 PM
I don't really know what to think about Justine, she's a very good player but sometimes she makes me feel that her mind is too frail. Maybe it's just because she's young but at the same time she can be so good and sure of herself.

:angel: :angel: :angel:

theheninfan
Mar 13th, 2002, 10:32 PM
I think sometimes Justine gets frustrated with her oppenent and does things that she normally wouldn't do. In the match with Kim Clijsters at that AO she tried to hit the ball as hard as she could every shot, and totally lost the beauty in her game. This caused her to make many mistakes. Just play your own game Justine! We love ya! ;) ;) ;)

saki
Mar 13th, 2002, 11:33 PM
theheninfan - you have the cutest avatar!

awww - little Juju :kiss:

theheninfan
Mar 13th, 2002, 11:56 PM
Thank you!...She was 5 in that pic.

harloo
Mar 14th, 2002, 12:52 AM
I just think that sometimes Justine makes excuses for losing a match. Then the negativity comes through in her post match interviews. She is literally taking this too seriously, she needs to relax and play her game. She usually losses to the top player's usually because she is too down on herself.

It's really sad, she really has no family. Her mother died when she was young, her father and her were estranged. She's had to take care of herself and she's now with her fiance. She's had to grow up fast, and has taken on so much responsibility. So, her coach is probably a father figure to her and probably part of her family in her eyesight. Most of the other girls have good families and have alot of support on tour for them.
I say, the reason why she lets her coach get away with the scandalous behaviour is because she feels he is somewhat her family.

She just really needs to figure it all out, and when she gets older she will. She has said that she's not as mentally strong as the Williams, Capriati, Davenport, but I think she will get it in due time. She will learn how to close out a match against someone like Daniela who is new to the tour. Come to think of it, Capriati, Venus, and Davenport all had to get over that phase of their careers and become competitors and champions.

Fingon
Mar 14th, 2002, 01:06 AM
Harloo, great post, I couldn't have said it better.

It's true, she is too intense, she herself puts too much pressure on herself, and with her style, she really needs to be relaxed for it to work. I read an article where most of the injuries Justine suffered in 2000 were due to her just going for too much.

When she is relaxed, the shot flow smoothly, but when she starts thinking too much, she becomes a different player. I saw in person her match against Monica at the Canadian Open. In the first set Justine was dominating, partly because Monica wasn't playing very well, but also, Justine was playing well, there was a big difference and it looked like the match was going to be over too quickly.

But then, Monica started to raise her level, to get many balls back and to hit the lines, at first, Justine could deal with it, but I believe she started to think "it's Monica Seles, she is now playing well..." and she lost it, Monica was playing better but Justine started to hit just everything out, and instead of mixing up, she just tried to hit as hard as she could.

You are right also about her coach. She used to travel with her father for they had problems and she asked him not to travel with her again, since then, she goes everywhere with Rodriguez and often with her fiance, they are her family and I do believe Rodriguez is a little bit a father figure for her.

As you well said, most top players have gone through this, when we now see Venus, we tend to forget that she used to struggle in big matches, specially in the GSs, Venus matured as a player and you can see the results. Even Martina that broke through at such a young age, she had been in the tour for over two full years when she won the Aussie Open for the first time. Justine still hasn't had two full years, in 1999 she didn't play much and in 2000 she was injured half of the season, only 2001 was a really full year and too much happened then.

Bright Red
Mar 14th, 2002, 04:17 AM
Each of the players has pressure--so it's a common factor. Some are able to deal with it better than others. The main point is that Justine has the talent to compete with the best of them, and time is on her side. She'll eventually deal with the pressure better and reach her full potential.

EVAspeed
Mar 14th, 2002, 07:22 AM
it just wasn't her day. everyone has those days.

go justine!

The Crow
Mar 14th, 2002, 09:21 AM
About the coach: I never heard about him being very harsh to Justine... Were did you hear/read that, cause I'm Belgian and I'm very surprised I never heard about that.

thefreedesigner
Mar 14th, 2002, 09:56 AM
I've thought about the coach situation too, and feel that perhaps Justine and Carlos should part ways. However agree that he and the fiance guy (Pierre-Yves) are her 2nd family, and having lost a first, to lose a second would be just downright careless (OK, I'm being facetious here).

Crow, when Justine lost to Kim at AO they interviewed him on Eurosport and although what he was saying may have been true, is true (that Justine tends to allow the better players to get to her and dominate her), the way he said it kind of gave me the impressions that he was blaming her: Not a good thing.

If he's like that on TV, what would he be like when they're in private?

It's very easy to blame the coach, but I guess that Justine has to take more responsiblity during matches. Why does she need to look up to her coach so much during a match? I can't see Justine and Carlos parting anytime soon though.

leeann
Mar 14th, 2002, 05:10 PM
"It's really sad, she really has no family. Her mother died when she was young, her father and her were estranged. "

She doesn't HAVE to be estranged from her father/family. I have no idea what happen between the two of them but I can't imagine it would take much effort to forgive and forget. Of course, that calls for maturity which, apparently Justine does not have at the moment. Part of growing up is finding it in your heart to forgive.

Also, getting closer to her family just might take away some of the pressure and anxiety she is feeling about other areas of her life.

JonBcn
Mar 14th, 2002, 05:19 PM
But that´s totally supposing that its an issue for her. Equally it might not be. Justine doesnt go round saying "Oh, poor me" - the press like it cos its a story.

And even if it was an issue, plenty of players have won grand slams despite issues with their fathers - ask Steffi, mary or Jennifer.

Fingon
Mar 14th, 2002, 09:45 PM
Originally posted by leeann
"It's really sad, she really has no family. Her mother died when she was young, her father and her were estranged. "

She doesn't HAVE to be estranged from her father/family. I have no idea what happen between the two of them but I can't imagine it would take much effort to forgive and forget. Of course, that calls for maturity which, apparently Justine does not have at the moment. Part of growing up is finding it in your heart to forgive.

Also, getting closer to her family just might take away some of the pressure and anxiety she is feeling about other areas of her life.

I didn't know you were one of Justine's close friends, or a family member, it's the only way I can think you can know so much about her.

How can you tell somebody what to do with her life when you don't know the person? you don't know Justine, you don't know her father, you don't know what happened between them.

We can't opinate about Justine's life decisions, and to call a person immature because she had a fight with her fater without knowing the reasons it's just plain stupid.

leeann
Mar 14th, 2002, 10:02 PM
I said, I have no idea what the reason for the estrangement is. I also said it's a sign of maturity for a person to forgive and forget. Therefore, whatever caused the split it can be mended if two people try to mend it.

Someone used Steffi and Jennifer as examples. Well, Steffi loved her father BEFORE the tax thing and she has said she loves him now. They are on speaking terms and Steffi and her husband and baby visited him in Germany just last month. Jennifer is also close to her father as anyone can see.

Both of these women found a way to forgive their fathers. Justine can do the same, if she really wants to.

This is all my opinion. I don't have to personally know her to state my opinion. Isn't that what all of you are doing on this board?

tfannis
Mar 14th, 2002, 10:10 PM
:rolleyes:

Well, to forgive someone can take time, you know, maybe there working on it...it takes time to heal wounds...you can't just say "hmmm, well, you hurt me, but hey, I'm mature so well...you're forgiven. Yeey!"

You don't know anything about the situation and it's pretty silly to come up with Steffies and Jennifers when it's about Justine Henin.

I think Justine is very mature for her age, a bit too much maybe...it's like she's not able to really enjoy what she's doing...but I still think she'll get there one day...she's so incredibly talented...

JonBcn
Mar 14th, 2002, 11:06 PM
I just dont see what throwing some random relationship into the fray and then judging the parties involved for their (supposed) maturity when we know NOTHING about their private life has to do with tennis?!

Fingon
Mar 15th, 2002, 02:06 AM
Originally posted by leeann
I said, I have no idea what the reason for the estrangement is. I also said it's a sign of maturity for a person to forgive and forget. Therefore, whatever caused the split it can be mended if two people try to mend it.

Someone used Steffi and Jennifer as examples. Well, Steffi loved her father BEFORE the tax thing and she has said she loves him now. They are on speaking terms and Steffi and her husband and baby visited him in Germany just last month. Jennifer is also close to her father as anyone can see.

Both of these women found a way to forgive their fathers. Justine can do the same, if she really wants to.

This is all my opinion. I don't have to personally know her to state my opinion. Isn't that what all of you are doing on this board?

In the case of Steffi, you did know what happened with her father.

Steffi, Jennifer and Justine are different people, and they have different live situations, you don't know if Justine's father is a great guy or an asshole.

would you recommend Mirjana Lucic to forgive her father?.

About stating opinions, I can't talk for others, but I gave my opinion on the reasons why Justine isn't playing up to her potential, it's her tennis, not her life, thats very different than making opinions on her life on , as you admitted, you have no clue about.

It's so easy to tell others what to do with their lives, and to judge others without knowing. I am sorry, but to evaluate a person psychologically, based on what you consider is right under your circumstances is ignorance IMO.

Dawn Marie
Mar 15th, 2002, 07:23 AM
I think Justine is doing fine. She is just going thru a transition period at the moment. She is working on changing some things around in her game and she is still learning the mental aspect of defending. Imho Justine has so much natural talent and she will win a slam or 2 or 3.:)

She just had some bad losses. I admirer a player for wanting to grow and change their game plan around. Juju will only get better in time.:)

Elizajoey
Mar 15th, 2002, 11:19 AM
I don't really think that Carlos is that much of an egotisical person as people make him out to be him....

I know, during the Aussie Open this year, I watched Henin play and practice a lot and also in Sydney as well.... They seemed to just have this connection, and seemed to understand each other really simply.... I also noticed that whenever Justine sat and talked to him, she had this sort of love in her eyes, not the same way as Pierres but I really reckon they are truly close and we have no idea of their relationship but we can make inferences but I reckon that Carlos and Justine are really great together.... The only way I personally would her to get a new coach is if the coach was women because I believe there are too many men involved as coaches and on the tour, There aren't many women working on the atp tour....

essielewis
Mar 15th, 2002, 11:42 AM
Justine has loads of talent. I hope she reaches her potential and doesn't waste it. That would be a shame.:( I don't have any comment on her family life because I don't know but I think EVERYBODY needs to be close to somebody in order to be happy. It would be awful if Justine doesn't reconcile with her father.:sad:

theheninfan
Mar 15th, 2002, 12:26 PM
I totally agree with you Dawn Marie!

:bounce: ;) :bounce: