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The rivalry between Justine Henin-Hardenne, left, and Kim Clijsters has helped make women's tennis interesting.

WTA Tour Gets Back Its Edge
By SELENA ROBERTS

A SUITABLE replacement for Martina Hingis has been as hard to find as pleated skirts on the women's tennis tour. After all, who can replicate her heartwarming Chucky-doll grin, the carefree way she hurled vases at Anna Kournikova's mane and her lovely attention to detail as she insulted her opponents?

Sniff, sniff, Hingis has been missed. In her absence, the Williams sisters have numbed everyone with kindness for the last two years, discovering that the country clubbers could cozy up to the mischievous mind of Hingis, but feel threatened by two strong, young, black women who carried themselves with heads held high.

So Serena and Venus rounded the corners on their confidence, softened the edge on their defiance and began oozing the air kisses and friendly smiles of pageant contestants. They were warm and inviting, creating a feng shui tour.

The sisters made nice with everyone, sending flowers to their old foil Hingis when she had ankle surgery two years ago, handing out compliments that were wrapped as pretty as bridesmaid's gifts to Lindsay Davenport and becoming the most congenial Nos. 1 and 2 players a charm-school teacher could imagine.


Suddenly, there were no more devilish digs between rivals in the news conferences, not when the top two players were sisters, not when Venus used to squeeze the toothpaste for Serena. Suddenly, there was a tennis phenomenon on the court, but little fan satisfaction as each major ended in the inevitable and awkward Venus-Serena final.

And in these moments, the WTA Tour withered. The lost intrigue has not been the fault of Venus and Serena, but because of opponents who, for a while, were willing extras on the set of the Amazing Williams Sisters.

Sadly, women's sports needs a splash of controversy to interest the fringe fan. (Refer to women's figure skating to see how prosperous scandal can be.)

Whatever it says about society — are folks only moved to the TV screen when gals wrestle each other in beer ads, on playing courts or at news conferences? — it is the way of the immature sports world.

So, get ready to rumble at the United States Open. This year, Serena won't be around Queens to purr in her on-court catsuit as she did last year, staying on the sideline to recover from an operation.

Wish a speedy return for the defending champion, and bemoan the loss of Serena's colorful personality, but take a look at a tour that is on its way to recovering its attitude in the petite shape and form of a cagey (some would say, cheatin') Belgian.

Justine Henin-Hardenne is Hingis without the sly grin. In fact, she hardly grins at all because of a childhood she describes as cruel after her mother died. While she cannot match Hingis's flair, Henin-Hardenne does prod opponents into fits of rage — even when the opponent is her cuddly countrywoman, Kim Clijsters.

A week ago, Clijsters accused Henin-Hardenne of faking an injury during the final of the Acura Classic in Carlsbad, Calif. To allegedly cool off her opponent's momentum, Henin-Hardenne took an injury timeout for blisters after dropping the first set to Clijsters. Medical miracles of medical miracles, Henin-Hardenne rallied for the title.

"It's not the first time that it's happened, so I'm getting kind of used to it," Clijsters told reporters after the match. "She has probably done that in every match I've played against her. It's a matter of knowing if she's doing it for an injury or another reason."

Henin-Hardenne was indignant over Clijsters's implication of fakery, telling Reuters, "She's disappointed she lost, that's the only reason she's saying this. I don't know why all the players are talking about the incidents in my matches because I think I'm a fair player."
Think again. Before Blistergate, there was Henin-Hardenne's French Open incident on the way to her upset of Serena. During the match, with the French crowd rudely mocking Serena's every mistake on the court, Henin-Hardenne put up a hand for time as her opponent served.

Naturally, Serena saw it, served the ball in the net, and rightly expected a first serve again. But the umpire didn't see Henin-Hardenne's internationally televised hand signal, and the Belgian kept silent as Serena stewed.

Although rattled by Henin-Hardenne's brazenness, Serena didn't use the moment as an excuse for her loss, but she did say, "to start lying and fabricating, it's not fair."

What's fair? Henin-Hardenne will cry. Is it fair that she stands 5 feet 5 inches with Dr. Scholl's in her sneakers or that she weighs only 120 pounds with rocks in her pockets? Is it fair that she has to conjure swashbuckling backhands just to match the brutish big hitters of the game?

"I think all these players don't like it that I'm not so strong and tall and am not the same-looking players as them," Henin-Hardenne said. "They don't like to see me running all over the court and having power, too. Mentally, it's hard for them to compete against me."

So there, all you Blutos of the game. Wrong or right, cheater or competitor, Henin-Hardenne has given a bite to the women's tour not felt since Hingis took her Chucky-doll ways and went home. She is not a replica of the Swiss diva, but a suitable replacement.
 

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Well leave it to the NY Times to stir up greater interest for the upcoming US Open. For a different view on the kim-juju controversy read "Kim's Dagboek" on the Kim Clijsters website. For those who don't read dutch she denies any ill feelings between her and justine and talked about joking and laughing with Jean-Yves Hardenne and juju's physio after the match; something one hardly would do if there were ill feelings.
 

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I suggest that you look at the byline on that article and give it the credence that it is worth, ie very little.
 

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Hey, the Great Tee Rexx already predicted that this would occur at the Open in one of my previous threads. :p

Maybe Justine should start wearing a black eye patch as well, eh? :eek: :)
 

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:zzz:
 

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That just what press is to you, picking up one something, then blow it out of proportion.

Same here in Belgium: All of a sudden they seem to realise Kim is about to turn #1. Lot's of press going to LA, because she is now only one match away.


Too bad they were too ignorant that we had exactly the same situation as last week. Before the SD final against Henin-Hardenne she was also at one win from the #1 on August 11th. Just to stupid to do proper research!
 

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So, someone finally says that Serena put it into the net because she saw the hand before she served. Cause-effect. Even Serena didn't state that. Leave it to Selena Roberts to just make something up. The New York Times seems to be continuing its effort to prove it's not a liberal paper by serving up enough crap by an increasing number of crap journalists to measure up to the other papers. Selena R. delivers, again. They can count on her.
 

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azza said:
Justine Looks Pissed!
Yeah, she sure does!! She´d rather clob Kim!
 

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I guess it was after Rosmalen final?? (the photo?)
 

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I agree that Martina was miles ahead of Justine.

While Justine matches power against power, in spite of her small frame, Martina would come up with great shots at times to throw the power hitters off guard. Martina seemed to be in control at all times, even when she clearly wasn't.

Martina's matches vs Venus were ALWAYS intreging (except AO 2000), and through AO 2000 her games vs Serena were equally riveting. After that Serena seemed to gain the upper hand. I think Venus only played her about twice since then. Justine, however has ONLY seen success vs EITHER sister on clay, but not always even on her best surface.
 

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VS Fan said:
I agree that Martina was miles ahead of Justine.

While Justine matches power against power, in spite of her small frame, Martina would come up with great shots at times to throw the power hitters off guard. Martina seemed to be in control at all times, even when she clearly wasn't.

Martina's matches vs Venus were ALWAYS intreging (except AO 2000), and through AO 2000 her games vs Serena were equally riveting. After that Serena seemed to gain the upper hand. I think Venus only played her about twice since then. Justine, however has ONLY seen success vs EITHER sister on clay, but not always even on her best surface.
I think you mean AO 2001. Venus didn't play the AO in 2000 becuase of injury.
 

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[email protected] article. The US Media is just trying to make someone here care about the USO this year.

But I really don't feel that this rift between the two really has brought back the edge to women's tennis. IMO, if both Kim and Justine reach the finals not too many outside of tennis fans will care. Both are just not superstars.

And Justine being compared to Hingis is not valid at all. You can say alot of things about Martina, but she's no cheater. She may have been a little immature at times. I do agree that Henin's nasty mouth sounds Hingislike somewhat. But I tend to feel Henin's comments are more personal.

I have respect for Hingis, because even when she was winning she never did cheat and then claim that people are jealous of her size. LOL.
Man this Justine is too much. Everyone is jealous of her? LOL!!!!

Whatever! :D
 

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caelestia said:
I agree, yet another diatribe from yet another 'tennis expert' :p
Totally agree, she could fill a thimble with her knowledge of the sport....as was voted on a few months ago on this very board....."Martina Hingis" came out on top as the most "watchable" player in the WTA her uniqueness and skills were uncomparable and I think this Selena creature really exaggerated the off court hyping of Martina re: "insults and exploits" :p but I agree on one thing....controversy between players does sell tickets and at the moment little Henin-Hardenne is filling the bill in that department :bounce: ...but as far as comparing Martina vs Henin in any other way ...no chance....they had an entirely different game!! :worship:


barmaid :wavey:
 

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barmaid said:
Totally agree, she could fill a thimble with her knowledge of the sport....as was voted on a few months ago on this very board....."Martina Hingis" came out on top as the most "watchable" player in the WTA her uniqueness and skills were uncomparable and I think this Selena creature really exaggerated the off court hyping of Martina re: "insults and exploits" :p but I agree on one thing....controversy between players does sell tickets and at the moment little Henin-Hardenne is filling the bill in that department :bounce: ...but as far as comparing Martina vs Henin in any other way ...no chance....they had an entirely different game!! :worship:


barmaid :wavey:
Do people even comprehend the difficulty of comparing these two players? First Justine is just beginning her career while Martina's is pretty much over. We have not seen all that Justine can do and how much her game can evolve, her game and abilities are just things we can assume to be whatever. While Martina's game,it was beautiful, is laid out in front of us to admire and to examine. Their games might become more similar in the future or might become completely different.
 
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