Justine Henin has a wild card at the Sony Ericsson Open, a matter which inconveniences players in the early rounds of the tournament. Today, Henin defeated Jill Craybas; in the second round, she meets 5th seed Elena Dementieva. Henin had a wild card for the Australian Open, and drew Dementieva in the second round there, also. She won, 7-5, 7-6, and there is undoubtedly much interest in the Miami match between these two.
Also coming up in the second round in Miami is the renewal of a long and exciting rivalry, but one which is rarely discussed. In fact, it wasn't even discussed when both players were much higher in the rankings. Patty Schnyder and Daniela Hantuchova have met 17 times, and Hantuchova has won 9 of those matches, including the last four. In the first round, Hantuchova had a bye, and Schnyder defeated Katarina Srebotnik.
There have already been a couple of retirements. Anastasija Sevastova, who was seeded first in qualifying, retired during her second qualifying round because of a foot laceration. And today, Varvaro Lepchenko retired in her second set against Virginie Razzano.
I read that Henin was having trouble with her serve-double faulting. It looks like the re-tooling of the serve may be taking some time. Also that she was inconsistent in her groundstrokes. Apparently the score does not reflect the real measure of the game (62 62). It was written that she saved a lot of match points though, so it looks like she stayed in there until she could pull it out. That is the thing she has going for her- her mentality. Her retooling was to save her body. Her situation is different than Clijsters who is built more like today's players. Thus it may take some time for Henin to get her game back.
Actually, Henin's serve has not been the same since she had the virus. And since her comeback this time, she has had repeated problems with it. But that's something she can fix.
Diane, I do not think that this is something that Henin can fix. Her serve has always been a liability especially when it is under pressure. See AO10 for the most recent match where her serve just went AWOL. When you look at someone like Serena who is able to come up with a good serve either on game point or break point and then you look at Henin who double faults at the most innocuous times. Dementieva is a really good returner of the ball and I think the shock and awe that she was met with in Australia will have diminished and that she will be ready for Justine this time around. The next issue that Dementieva faces however is how to keep her own nerves against the attacking force that is Henin. I do not see her pulling it out and it will be another long gruelling break fest like what we saw in Australia with Henin pulling it out in 3.
I don't think her serve has always been a liability. I recall the problem starting only after she returned from the illness (it was, by the way, pretty much ignored by the tennis press at the time). If my memory is correct, her serve prior to that was much more reliable.
The reason I say she can fix it (and you may be right, Karen--perhaps she can't) is that I think her baseline (no pun intended) is stable, and I guess I just can't imagine Henin allowing her serve to go all crazy for too long.
One of the more under rated aspects of a player's serve is how much can it withstand pressure. When Justine's serve is under pressure she has a tendency to become quite predictable with it. As a result of her height disadvantage, 9 times out of 10 on break points she will go down the lower part of the net. If she tries to go out wide she either gets a double fault or a let serve. That being said she defends her serve very well because she is quite effective off the ground, especially when it comes to defense. She is one of the few players who is able to take a rally in which she is defending, neutralise it and then go on the offense, unfortunately, her opponent is just as good at doing that. It will be a contrast in styles but I still think that Henin will put it out in 3. As to the illness, the media tends not to take into account a player's deficiencies after injury. About the only 2 persons whose injury woes have not been maligned by the media are those of Sharapova and Ivanovic.
Good points, Karen.
Well Diane, seems like I was wrong. Henin looks like she will take this in straights. You know there is a reason why there are h2h. People may not believe them or think that there is nothing in them, but when you look at the h2h between Dementieva and other players in her era and see how skewed it is in the other player's favour you will say well that was because she had no serve and it was early in her career etc. OK so she has allegedly improved her serve and she played well last year to reach the semis of 2 majors etc. Now she is playing against a player who had a positive h2h against said player took a break and not only did she stink up the joint at the AO, but now she is stinking up the joint in Miami. The h2h is really what it is, serve or no serve. The fact is that Dementieva does not have what it takes between the years to really beat the best players when there is lots on the line. Not only does she get broken for the set but she gets broken for the match. She serves up 11 double faults against a player who is prone to double faults. Just abysmal. I wonder if she will say that she "learned" something like she did the last time. Phewt.
I really didn't see this scoreline coming, Karen. But I suppose it is a microcosm of the world of Elena Dementieva under pressure. Only this time, it wasn't even competitive. I'm kind of glad I didn't see it.
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