For months, Henin has been warning people about her anxiety. Once a player who thrived on the utter chaos of her private life, channeling adversity into pure magnificence on court, she has returned from retirement in a swirl of uncertainty. Her life in general: sublime. Staring down a crucial point after a long, hard struggle: no way of knowing.
"I am going to have to work on my nerves, especially," she admitted after taking a second-round loss to
Over the course of her comeback year, Henin has blown commanding leads against two of her chief rivals on tour: to
Viewed in the most positive light, it only adds to the intrigue when Wimbledon comes around later this month. The women's tour has taken some major hits lately, on many fronts, but if you can't envision a compelling pair of semifinals from this group -- Henin, Serena Williams,
Say this about Henin: She fought her heart out to get past Sharapova in a Roland Garros third-rounder that felt more like a final. As Justine explained afterward, "I fought and I dared." But that match was more about the two of them, resurrecting the spirit of competitive fire in a women's field often sadly lacking in that category. Who comes back to win a second set after Henin just won her 40th straight at the French? Sharapova, and damned few others. Even for those put off by her incessant shrieking, it was inspiring to watch Sharapova back in form, serving without pain and crushing her groundstrokes, after such a long period away from the game. (Good sign: Coming back less than 24 hours after two punishing sets against Henin in cold, rainy weather, Sharapova showed no ill effects.)
Leading the third set 2-0 and 0-40 on Henin's serve, Sharapova netted a routine backhand that would have clinched the game (the ensuing points were vital, but Henin earned the hold on her own merit). Later, at deuce during Henin's service break for 4-all, Sharapova uncorked one titanic bomb after another, enough to wilt most players, but a brilliantly defensive Henin stayed in the point until Sharapova finally blasted a forehand into the net.
Henin still has plenty of fight. She wants her first Wimbledon championship in the worst way, and she'll be a force at the All-England Club. The Williams sisters certainly need no introduction, nor does Clijsters, who will be looking for her first title there. Stosur is the new face in this crowd, and what a pleasure she is to watch. No shrieks, no taunting of the opponent, no gamesmanship, enviable form, and one of the few truly rhythmic toss-and-serve motions in the women's game.
Stosur is now 18-2 on clay, including a very convincing victory over
"She also has confidence, very calm on the court, very quiet," Williams said. "I don't know that she has a real weakness."
For all the young players trying to crash the party, it seems likely that the road to Wimbledon glory leads through maturity.
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Roddick's performance was shameful, in that he got one look at his least favorite venue in the world (Court Suzanne Lenglen) and knew he was beaten, even against 114th-ranked
Maybe it was refreshing to hear such candor from an athlete, but Querrey went too far in explaining his lifeless first-round exit. "Not into it," he said. "Mentally not there. I just wanted to go home." Worst of all, he admitted that when he gets in this frame of mind, "I just tank some points."
I've always been baffled by the excitement over Querrey as a looming force in American tennis. This is a guy who doesn't look, act, talk or even play the part. There can't be anyone in tennis more boring to watch. And now he quits -- in a Grand Slam event, no less -- because he's grown tired of Europe?
For all the excellent things Querrey has done this year, from Davis Cup to his dismissal of the rogue
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Things got tense in the escalating feud between Jelena
Credit Ivanovic for an incisive response: "You know what they say: Sport doesn't build character. It shows it." But Jankovic said the words that count: "When you do that in a player's face, especially after your opponent missed an easy ball, I don't think it's fair play. That can be a little irritating."
Sharapova has reached the point where she's pumping her left fist while checking into a hotel, pouring a cup of tea or brushing her teeth. Henin hasn't shaken that annoying habit of yelling
As for Ivanovic's post-match comments after a 6-3, 6-0 loss in the second round to
"I don't think I played that bad, actually," she said.
Oh, please. You were awful.
"I didn't think I did too much wrong out there."
"I really feel I belong at the top."
On the basis of what?
Maybe Ivanovic has simply been worn down by the dreary atmosphere of post-match press conferences, where she hears a lot of idiotic questions, and can't wait to get out of there. Maybe she's just a bit dim. In any case, the tour wouldn't mind seeing a bit of fight from its glamour queen.
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