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Henin-Hardenne is Number One at Heart
by Greg Laub
Saturday, September 6, 2003


It was four weeks ago tomorrow that Kim Clijsters held up a four foot floral arrangement shaped as the number one, signifying her overtaking of Serena Williams as the top ranked woman in all of tennis, a position previously held by the American for 57 weeks in a row.

By defeating former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport in the Los Angeles final earlier that day for her 16th career title and tour-leading sixth title this season, she became just the 12th woman to hold the top spot since the inception of computer rankings on Nov. 3, 1975.

But in that all time, none of the previous eleven women ever made tennis fans feel the need to question the computer. Until now.

Since hoisting that giant bouquet, Clijsters has been criticized by many for being the only woman to ever hold the No. 1 spot without ever capturing a Grand Slam, and the computer rankings have been put under the microscope for it’s inability to separate quantity from quality.

Sure, she plays in more matches than most women, but she’s had her fair share of chances to exorcise those demons, and has always fallen short in the end. Tonight, with yet another chance to silence those critics, she lost again to familiar foe, and that familiar foe is slowly proving that some things go deeper than numbers.

When Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Clijsters to win the 2003 US Open singles title tonight, she once again showed the world who the real champion is between the two Belgians, regardless that she is ranked No. 3 in the world.

She is the real champion, because she finds a way to win the big match. She knows what it takes. She has the heart of a rebel, and the guts of a warrior.

Tonight, as always, Henin-Hardenne was able put her obstacles behind her, still managing to dominate play from the very start of the match to the very end. While Clijsters was fighting her own mental demons, Henin-Hardenne was struggling with more severe physical problems sustained the night before, when her three-hour-plus match against Jennifer Capriati took so much out of her that she nearly was forced to bow out of tonight’s match due to fatigue before it even started.

But she dug deep, took to the court and battled, as she has done so many times before, and in the end reigned supreme.

The last time Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters met, in a final at San Diego last month, Clijsters accused Henin-Hardenne of poor sportsmanship for taking excessive injury timeouts. During a news conference, Henin-Hardenne called Clijsters' remarks "stupid" and added "I understand that sometimes it's hard to lose, but she has to accept that."

Tonight, Kim did not comment on Justine’s injuries. She instead took the respectful route, telling the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium and reporters afterward that Justine was simply the better player tonight. Clijsters lauded Justine’s efforts, and is seemingly realizing right before our very eyes that while she may be the one ranked No. 1, Justine is the one who has the extra something that every true champion needs to win the big one.

After all, this isn’t the first time Henin-Hardenne has squashed Clijsters’ title chances, and certainly not the first time she has won a big match over her adversary. Including tonight’s victory, she has now defeated Clijsters four out of the last five times they've met – all finals. Amongst those finals were two Grand Slams: the French Open, which Henin-Hardenne won handily, 6-0, 6-4, and tonight, which she won 7-5, 6-1.

In fact, the only final Clijsters has won in the history of this rivalry came in June at the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, when Henin-Hardenne was forced to retire in the second set after hurting her left hand while stumbling. Interestingly, the only other final these two have played before this year came at the same tournament back in 2001, which Henin-Hardenne won, making it a total of five out of six finals for Justine.

Naturally, Clijsters has been the lower seed in each of those tournaments.

And, while Henin-Hardenne proved to the world again tonight that she is the superior champion, when the rankings come out Monday morning, Clijsters will still be ranked No. 1 in the world.

But that’s just because you can’t measure heart with a computer.
 

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And, while Henin-Hardenne proved to the world again tonight that she is the superior champion, when the rankings come out Monday morning, Clijsters will still be ranked No. 1 in the world.
But that’s just because you can’t measure heart with a computer.

:worship: :)
 

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At this point in time, Justine is the No. 1 player.

Serena is also right up there, but the results that Justine has shown on a surface that many criticised her for are absolutely remarkable.

Having nerves of steel and a heart for competing are worth much more than a big serve, BH or FH in women's tennis IMO.

Its about belief, and having faith in yourself and making sure you have the ability to hit the right shot at the right time.

Combine Justine's natural shot making ability with Serena's awesome natural power and you have a prototype for a future World No. 1!

Congrats Justine, I really felt you deserved it, especially after you DIDN'T call the trainer out against Jen.

And over the hardcourt season, only Jen and Elena D have played her tough (i.e. in a position where they were able to win) which speaks volumes about their talents and abilities too!

Good luck girls!!
 
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