Henin's retirement really a hiatus
• Lots of questions about Henin's return to tennis. (And if you think it's a coincidence the announcement came barely a week after Clijsters won the U.S. Open, I have a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium to sell you.) First, I see no reason she can't resume her winning, especially given the state of affairs on the WTA Tour. She's 27. We hear she's stayed in shape. She "retired" only 16 months ago. Like you, we hope it's a warmer, kindler, gentler Henin who returns. But frankly, we're just happy to be able to resume ogling her backhand and complete game. Welcome back.
Many of you noted that the concept of "retirement" has become a euphemism for "hiatus" in women's tennis.
And since Brian brought it up, we ought to reconsider the Williams sisters in this context. Disturbing as this is, it's become clear that -- thanks to the Scylla and Charybdis of the physical toll and the emotional grind -- a conventional career just isn't sustainable in contemporary women's tennis. The Williamses' strategy of playing a limited schedule and rationing their energy looks wiser with each passing year -- and each "retirement."
• "Giveaway" is too strong and doesn't give del Potro enough credit. But, overall, I agree that this was a strangely vacant performance and for a variety of reasons -- Serena's
• Even playing around on YouTube, I have yet to see conclusive proof one way or the other. As I see it, an ambiguous call equals a blown call, especially given the timing. As we said last week, it sets a dangerous precedent to "swallow the whistle" and refrain from making calls late in the match. But the flip side is that you
• I will fess up. Again, I like
• This would be my
• Enberg has been getting hammered but who knows what instructions he was following. ("Keep it snappy. We gotta plug the sponsors and then get right to
Also, a few of us were joking about how wooden and prepackaged the speeches are, clearly written in advance, with the presenter simply filling in the appropriate names. Just for fun, imagine if the Clijsters/Serena semifinal had in fact been the final, and had ended as it did. There would have been wild scrambling and frantic rewriting behind the scenes. Or else we would have been treated to something like this: "Congratulations to you, Serena, on competing so valiantly. While you weren't able to defend your title, your calm demeanor and sunny disposition have won you many fans here. Your decorum in victory and defeat is truly inspiring. We look forward to seeing you next year!"
• You make "the lady or the tiger" look like a narrow range. You're either a seven-time Grand Slam champ ... or one of the all-time great tennis flameouts.
It would be irrational to peg any player as a multiple Grand Slam winner. But I do think Oudin is no flash in the skillet. It wasn't just that she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open but it was the players she beat, and how she beat them. She handled the pressure and scrutiny well. And she is arriving at a time in women's tennis when "not being a head case" is an indispensable asset. Also, while the U.S. Open was her breakthrough, let's not forget it comes on the heels of a strong Wimbledon. And before that, she was a highly regarded junior player.
• Fair enough. But easy on the media. Check out the
• Agree (and I plead guilty here). It's receiving a pension as far as I'm concerned. Someone else suggested we retire the word "retire," since it's become synonymous with "take a break for a year or so and then return."
• The money goes to the Grand Slam Development Fund, helping to train the Federers of tomorrow.
• Any submission that manages to use "Tom Tebbutt" and "Oracene Williams" in the same sentence merits publication.
• Princeton, N.J., readers: One of my son's friends is new to the area and she is a massively talented 8-year-old. If anyone can recommend a junior program, fire away.
• Here's must-read tennis
• Doubles fan
• Props to
Justine Henin's comeback shouldn't catch anyone by surprise. Athletes who retire prematurely often realize quickly that nothing they can do in the next phase of their lives can fill the void. Thus they do the only thing they know, which is to come back in an attempt to recapture what they had tried and probably subconsciously hoped they could leave behind.
Elite athletes are almost programmed from a young age to achieve. Every minute of their day is, in some way, connected to them squeezing every ounce of potential out of their bodies. Once they decide that the work outweighs the reward, they run toward normalcy. However, it usually doesn't take long for them to realize that what made them great in the first place was enjoying the effort and sacrifice aligned with high achievement. When you also factor in the adrenaline of competing and the void of no longer having that, all roads point right back to the field or court that gives you the best chance to recapture that "fix."
Athletes have the cruelty of life's greatest resource after their careers end: time. For most that is a luxury, but when you are struggling to find meaning in your life, as most do, it is torturous. It is an aberration for athletes to find peace after their playing careers, and those who do have most often been able to put their learned skill set and passion into another endeavor. Look at two of the biggest symbols of not being able to let go.
It seems like some sort of undiagnosed disease afflicts athletes -- call it comebackitis. Even the most successful second-career athletes, such as
I don't know Henin too well -- and it is unfair to draw conclusions when you don't have all the information -- but hearing that she's coming back, especially after her compatriot Kim Clijsters just returned so triumphantly, is hardly surprising. What would be unique is if she actually walked away from the game and never looked back.