I reported on January 26 that seven-time major champion Justine Henin had retired from professional tennis. This was Henin's second time to leave the sport; she also retired suddenly in 2008. At that time, I wrote this and this about her retirement. Now, with my own post-Australian Open fatigue, I will not go on and on about Henin. However, her exit from the sport is big news; for me, however, it was not news to be discussed while we were enjoying the peak of the action in Melbourne.
Justine Henin had one of the most beautiful--and deadly--tennis games I have ever seen. Even though one generally knew what she as going to do, it was still always exciting to watch her do it. Henin also displayed an athleticism that was all the more amazing because of her relatively small size. Her return to the tour, which appeared to be motivated--at least in part--by a desire to win Wimbledon and achieve a career Slam, did not go the way she expected it to go. When she reached the final of the 2010 Australian Open, she generated a lot of talk, of course. But she was beset by injuries and a decrease in mental toughness, and in the end, the pain from her injured elbow forced her off the tour.
I admired Henin in a rather detached way because I had trouble tolerating her high sense of drama about herself and her (seemingly always urgent) feelings, I saw her push the sporting envelope too far too many times, and I couldn't get past her 2006 Australian Open retirement against Amelie Mauresmo. Henin was apparently an acquired taste--and one I did not acquire. But I very much liked watching her play, and I'm always sorry to see someone have to leave the game because of injury. I consider her a great tennis player, and her dominance at the French Open is of historical importance within the sport. Perhaps the saddest thing, from a fan standpoint, is that there is not likely to be anyone else who plays the way she did.