Thursday, November 8, 2007

Revenge is a dish that is best served cold

And how better to serve it than with a couple of bagels? Several months after Marion Bartoli left Justine Henin with her head spinning in the Wimbledon semifinals, Henin has returned the favor in Madrid, defeating Bartoli 6-0, 6-0 in the latest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Year-End Championships round robin. Bartoli, a last-minute replacement for the injured Serena Williams, apparently was not, in any way, ready for the onslaught of the world's number one player.

Someone on a popular tennis board started a thread today entitled "Justine and the 7 Dwarfs," and I had to laugh. Henin is playing at such a breaktakingly high level right now that it is hard to imagine anyone defeating her. The two players on the tour who I think can defeat her are her rival, Amelie Mauresmo, and the woman she has defeated ten times, Jelena Jankovic. That may sound strange, but Jankovic gets Henin's game as few others do. But a Jankovic victory will occur only when Jankovic has a second serve good enough that Henin can't destroy it. As for Mauresmo, she will have to get back into form after her long bout with appendicitis, recovery from surgery and her consequential abdominal injury. But she does have Henin's number, as she proved last year.

A couple of years ago, I saw Patty Schnyder beat Henin in three exciting sets in Charleston, and she did it by hitting repeatedly to the Great Backhand and making sure she kept the ball in the court. This simple formula unnerved Henin, who eventually made errors. Of course, Schnyder also threw in some of her trademark change-ups and loops, which helped. And Schnyder has a solid first serve and an especially good second serve, which made it hard for Henin to attack her. But Henin is playing at an even higher level now than she was then, and it gets harder and harder to find a way to defeat her.

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