Tennis Forum banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts

· Registered
43,627 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
"Asterisk" women's final big news, just not in the U.S.

September 7, 2003
By Santosh Venkataraman
SportsTicker Staff Writer

FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) - The term "asterisk" has always had a dubious distinction in sports.

Baseball used it when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961 and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson used it in basketball to describe the San Antonio Spurs' title in the lockout-shortened season of 1999.


Saturday's all-Belgian final between Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters will be remembered the same way. Yes, Henin-Hardenne won, but Venus and Serena Williams were not present.

"I really don't think about the Williams sisters right now because because they dominated the tour for so long and they're still great champions, both of them," Henin-Hardenne said after her 7-5, 6-1 victory over Clijsters. "I think everybody hopes that they are going to come back on the tour very soon, because we want all the players, all the top ones, and we will see."

Without the injured Williams sisters, the final certainly took a hit. The duo drew such diverse fans as rap mogul P. Diddy, basketball players Marcus Camby and Allan Houston, actress Vanessa Williams and David Letterman sidekick Biff Henderson to the first prime-time final two years ago.

This year's celebrity list was considerably weaker. Who really knows exactly how to classify Carolina Rhea?

The final can also be considered an "asterisk" event for another reason - the show of total apathy by the United States for the Belgians.

Even a representative of a tournament sponsor, who was complimentary of the two finalists, inadvertently referred to Henin-Hardenne as "Christine" in the trophy ceremony.

But for a country like Belgium - roughly the size of Maryland - the U.S. Open final was indeed a big moment. Belgium became the third country to have both participants in the women's final, joining Australia and the U.S.

Of course, it was shortly past two in the morning in Belgium when this final began. The French Open final between the two drew large crowds on the streets throughout the country, and prime minister Guy Verhofstadt traveled to Paris to attend the match.

Belgium is an extremely diverse country, although most people are divided as Flemings or Walloons. Clijsters is from the Flemish-speaking part of the country while Henin-Hardenne is from Marloie, which is in the heart of the French-speaking area.

"I'll be happy to go back in Belgium," Henin-Hardenne said."It's been six weeks here in the States. I've really enjoyed it, but I'm going to have a new apartment when I get back to Belgium."

Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters are sporting icons in Belgium. At the U.S. Open, however, it was quite a different story, as witnessed by the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was closer to a Carnegie Hall audience than one at a Grand Slam final.

"Maybe in a way, its normal, I think," Clijsters said. "Because I'm sure it would have been a completely different atmosphere out there today if there would have been two Americans or one American."

Although much has been made of differences between Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters and their rivalry, the Belgian public has embraced them both. The fans do not root for either player based on their ethnic backgrounds, rather for their playing style or upbringing.

Henin-Hardenne had to endure a rough childhood, losing her mother to cancer and her sister to a car accident before she was born. Clijsters is the daughter of a father who played soccer and a mother who was a gymnast, going through a more stable life in her formative years. But the country has admired both players for their on-court ferociousness.

"I think that Kim and me, we are both fighters," Henin-Hardenne said. "I hope that - I think that we represent Belgium very well."

Although the final between Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters probably will not be a lengthy story in American papers, rest assured readers of French-language Le Soir and Dutch-language Nieuwsblad will have plenty of stories about the match.

There are approximately 10 million readers in Belgium who have no complaint about this U.S. Open final - or any other involving their beloved heroines.
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.