Justine Henin has been known as a great player with an unpredictable mind. If her nerves stayed in check she could beat anybody. But it’s that ‘if’ that has prevented tennis pundits from calling her the unquestionable number one player in the world. If Serena or Venus are on their game, if Sharapova has her serve, then well … Henin can’t stand up to that.
Tonight, Justine Henin made those reservations seem a little silly. She won her seventh Grand Slam and second U.S. Open in the most dominating and convincing effort of her career.
“This one is maybe the most important one,” she said afterwards. “The quality I played in the last few matches is amazing. It’s just a great feeling because I had a tough draw and I had a lot of things to prove to myself.”
On the way, she beat Serena for a third consecutive Grand Slam, this time in straight sets. She dismantled Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams, the player everyone said looked the best in this tournament.
Oh. And she didn’t lose one set to anyone the whole way through. All on hard courts, too, which is not exactly the preferred surface of the four-time French Open Champ.
For two weeks, she was more aggressive than we’ve ever seen her. Before her match against Serena, her longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez told me: “I’d like Justine to go a little bit forward, to try to get to the net to put Serena out of rhythm and push her a little bit back.”
What that meant was he wanted his meek, 5’5 pupil to attack. In her 6-1, 6-3 Finals victory against Svetlana Kuznetsova tonight, she was 13 of 16 from the net. Against Serena she was 11 of 14.
Most importantly, she overcame her nerves. Before the tournament began she said the Williams sisters were still in her head. But last night, after she defeated Venus Williams, she said, “I didn’t believe enough in myself, didn’t trust myself enough in the last few years against [the Williams sisters]. And then this year a lot of things have changed. I trust myself much more.”
Now, after her second Grand Slam this year, she’s an undisputed champion.