Henin Hangs it Up; Big Three Advance in Hamburg
by Sean Randall | May 15th, 2008, 3:55 pm

A business trip has gotten the better of me this week, so I apologize for being late on the topic of Justine Henin’s sudden retirement, but it really is the big tennis news of the week. And I was really stunned to learn of it. ADHEREL

If you had told me Henin would retire in two, maybe three years time I would have believed you. But to have retired as the world No. 1, on the eve of your French Open defense and at the age of just 25 was a major shock.

Tennis is such a tough sport both physically and emotionally, and given what Henin’s been up against with her divorce, physical issues, family issues, on court controversies, etc., in the past you knew the clock was ticking on such an announcement.

But I respect it. I guess she did what she feels was the right move. And I haven’t been a big follower of women’s tennis but it will be sad to see her go. She’s been the best player hands down the last few years – yeah, you could make a case that’s Serena’s better when healthy, but I won’t debate that here – and I actually found her style of play to be far more appealing than that of Maria Sharapova’s or the many other WTA fembots who just rip forehands and backhands. Henin played some heady, thoughtful tennis.

And had she continued, there’s no doubt Justine would have added to her seven career Slam titles count which probably would have included the French Open where she has won the last three years, five times overall. So it will be a shame not to see her defend her French crown.

Henin of course follows countrywoman Kim Clijsters as early retired Belgians, but I do think that Henin, and Clijsters as well, will return to pro tennis someday. My hunch is that we haven’t seen the last of Justine at a pro tournament.

Justine will take a year or two off maybe longer to get her life together, settle down, see what’s out there and then she’ll get the itch again to play. And even in a few years time at age 27, 28, if she keeps herself in reasonable shape I could still see her returning and being a factor again at Grand Slams down the road.

Of course she says she won’t go back on her decision now, but body- and mind-willing she’ll be back. They always come back! Unless your body will not allow or unless you are simply too old, you’ll likely come back. That desire, that will to win and compete doesn’t just evaporate for pro athletes. It will keep tugging at you and more than likely you’ll want to give it another shot. And we’ve seen it countless times in other sports and tennis is no exception. Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova have all had comebacks, and the list goes on and on. And I hope she does comeback one day.

Then again, there are several people who hope the exact opposite of that, that she doesn’t comeback. That she never goes near a tennis court ever again unless it’s to hand out hardware to them. Those people being Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and just about ever other player on the WTA who should have all cracked open the champagne bottles and partied all night in celebration upon hearing the news of Justine’s retirement. Even the WTA execs should be doing dances and giving themselves raises. The absence of Justine will mean more titles and more face time for glamour girls Maria, Serena, Venus, Ana and Jelena, and that should ultimately translate into more sponsor dollars for the WTA.

Okay, back to current tennis action…

After a rocky week in Rome looks like things have returned back to form on the slower Hamburg courts. I haven’t really watched much of it, but it looks like the three-headed monster that is Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is firing on all cylinders with neither guy really having been tested, though they haven’t really faced anyone of any clay significance, and that seemingly will continue for ahead for Fed.

After today the Swiss’s path takes him to Fernando Verdasco and then either to Nicolas Kiefer or Andreas Seppi in the semifinal. Kiefer’s somewhat of an enigma, but on clay Federer should take care of him. And the underachieving Verdasco might be able to push a tiebreak, maybe even get a set, but at the end of the day he’ll fold if he gets in any kid of winning position against Fed.

The bottom half should provide the fireworks as Nadal and Djokovic are just a win away from a colossal and important semifinal showdown for the No. 2 ranking and with it the No. 2 seeding at the French Open. And with Nadal playing Moya and Djokovic facing Montanes you have to like such a meeting coming to pass and I can’t wait. In the end I still tip Nadal to beat Fed here and resume his regularly scheduled clay dominance right through Roland Garros.

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25 Comments for Henin Hangs it Up; Big Three Advance in Hamburg

Dr. Death Says:

For MMT and Jane, see my comments on the original string concerning JH’s retirement.

Let us also note that Murray has once again fallen in combat. The London Times has been running articles that are taking the young man down a notch or two. Take a look at their sports/tennis site.

Sean – you probably never saw a post I made concerning lexilon (sp?). I love the stuff except when it is cold and then the racquet feels like a board. What is a good alternative?

Many thanks.

Sean Randall Says:

DD, Murray hasn’t seen anything yet. Imagine what would happen with early French and Wimbledon exits.

As for racquet string I’m really no expert. I use to use Wilson Sensation (i think that was the name of it) which looking back had a similar feel to the Luxillon however it didn’t last for crap. I also string the Luxillon pretty loosely. I don’t think it’s meant to be strung tightly.

Dr. Death Says:

Sean – thank you. Agree totally with the tension. I do 2 lbs. under what I used to do with Wilson stamina 17. Like sensation it does not last long. I once went through 4 racquets in an hour.

As to Murray, reality check time. You are right concerning the next big tournaments. The LTA has spent a fortune to make him the Next Big Thing. He has his team now plus sponsorship. Maybe, dont know what you or others think, it is better to get your uncle to teach and to train you and forget about the support teams.

Dr. Death Says:

Is that a pix of JH with her hair down? Looks good! Even better than Ms. Bartoli.

Sean Randall Says:

DD, four racquets? Geez!

The LTA is in a tailspin. Even if Murray makes it who’s behind him? Brother Jaime? All that money going to waste.

Right now Murray is the only guy in the Top 240 from Britain. Two years ago there was five. Four years ago there was four. Now one?

jane Says:

DD – have no idea if this applies but here’s the scoop on Novak’s racquet:

“Djokovic switched from all polyester strings (mains and crosses) to a poly-gut hybrid. He has acknowledged that he has maintained the same control while this equipment adjustment has given him some extra pop”

Dr. Death Says:

Thanks for that Jane. It already costs me US$ 30 to string my racquets. I have seen some people who do that. If it works, it far above my level.

Sean – Racquet day was a hell of a day – a lesson on top spin – the pro loved it given all of the stringing he had to do.

Come Jane – what bar did Dylan Thomas drink in when in NYC?

Dr. Death Says:

Jane – just saw the other post. Try to cheat; I wonder if the info is out there. Fairly arcane stuff needless to say.

I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

“Murray hasn’t seen anything yet. Imagine what would happen with early French and Wimbledon exits.”

looking forward to it :D

Dr. Death Says:

Shame for such evil thoughts! A Disciple.

Von Says:


I’d hazard a guess and say the White Horse Tavern.

Dr. Death Says:

Now, that is good! (Many tennis amateurs hang out there – got to make this relate to tennis somehow).

Been there? know the location?

Von Says:

Dr. Death:

No never been there to the bar that is, but do know the location – I lived in NYC, am familiar with the great top 10 University in Washington Square, and worked at the famous electric company fighting off the various law suits for the blackouts, etc. Some very good tennis courts down there too, if I might add. Does MacDougal Street ring a bell? How about the East Side Tennis Club? I’d say some tennis connection here.

Andrew Miller Says:

Hello! I had a question for Sean Randall and the comments section. I have a theory that the current generation of tennis players create their future opponents (a Sampras, Becker, Edberg, Lendl, Rafter will give rise to a Federer; an Agassi/Rios will fuel the rise of a player with knockout double fisted backhands such as Djokovic, Nadal, and Baghdatis; a Seles will invite the Williams sisters, a Davenport will bring around an Ivanovic, Sharapova, and a Vaidisova (however unimposing))

Are we likely to see an enigma at the talent level of Henin, with the wondrous one-handed backhand, anytime in the next 5 years? Typically it seems these kinds of players – the exceptions to the rule that end up ruling and then disappearing – are either victims of their brilliance or exit stage right far sooner than a fan would want to see them go. Henin, along with Federer, is one of those players whose awe-inspiring shot making, especially for someone her size, actually capitalized on their talent, consistently. (Some of those who didnt, in my opinion, would be Leconte, Patty Snyder, Marcelo Rios, Gabriela Sabatini, even Patrick Rafter to a degree – he seemed like he should have won more than he did). Her game is just a lot harder to manufacture, and academies around the world specialize in just that – manufacturing things that look the same.

Honestly I wish another beautiful game will triumph on the women’s side. I love watching Hantuchova, but in good faith I cant believe she will be triumphing at a grand slam, outside of the doubles competition where she plays with much more confidence.

Personally I am hoping for a left handed version of Henin to do some damage on the WTA Tour in the future.

Has there been any word out there of a creative new player on the rise on the WTA Tour, outside of Henin’s game? I really must agree that, to a fan of the actual tennis that is played, Henin’s leaving the tour leaves an enormous hole in the sport and creativity looks damned.

Andrew Miller Says:

Does any other WTA Tour player play, as creatively as Henin does?

Honestly I have much less incentive to watch the WTA Tour now other to to gawk at the btb (big tennis babes)

jane Says:

Dr. D,

I did cheat and White Horse Tavern came up immediately; at Wikipedia they cite the tavern as being perhaps “most famous as the place where Dylan Thomas drank, before returning home and eventually becoming ill and dying a few days later of unrelated causes.”

What has this to do with tennis? Oh yeah – “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I wonder if Justine will become a barfly now? LOL

Von Says:


I don’t know if you know this but the White Horse Tavern was a hangout for off beat poets, that’s what jogged my memory. Bob Dylan hung out there also. Additionally, the cast of SNL, Behushi and Dan Akroyd hang out there. As a matter of fact, when Belushi died, Akroyd had them close the bar and ordered a round for everyone present.

jane Says:

Von – some interesting trivia.

Did you see that Kiefer came back and won the second set?! It’d be nice for him to win this now; he really has been the story of this tournament in a way.

Dr. Death Says:

Von – thanks for the additional trivia. I did not know about the other celebs.

I hung out there for a short period.

“Black & Tan” was THE drink – Porter and stout mixed. After a couple of those, one hit the best forehands.

Jane -What this has to do with tennis is that it goes well with tickets to the WTA.

Chris Says:

I agree with Sean, as i am not a avid viewer of the WTA. That being said now that Henin is know longer there to watch… then my little intrest will be even less. Honestly all these Sharapova lookalikes and playalikes just don’t do it for me. Its all just a grunt fest .

JCF Says:

Wow. I am shocked. This has got to be the biggest news of the year, even bigger than Kim’s sudden retirement. I’d have thought she’d try to win Wimbledon first (she is capable, everyone knows that) then retire at least. To retire at #1, I guess she wanted to go out with a bang.

Glenn Says:

First Hingis, now Henin. I’m so sad. I’ll still keep watching women’s tennis for Jankovic and Ivanovic.

I’m not rooting for Djokovic, but I am hoping for a really great match and a final between Federer and Nadal.

Ellie Says:

Thanks Sean, for such a nice tribute to Justine. She deserves this kind of tribute. And you are right, I’m sure many tennis players were practically giddy they would no longer have to face the Belgian fighter.. she was always a threat and took no prisoners when her game was on and her health was good. What does it say about the WTA when their CEO says “we won’t lose any sleep over it” about Justine’s retirement? I have news for Larry Scott, alot of fans were shocked and saddened by her retirement, because they appreciated great tennis and skill and if he thinks a bunch of good looking model types are the only reason people watch tennis and the only type of players worth losing sleep over, he has a rude awakening coming. And people wonder why the WTA is in such a state, and the players are so dissatisfied. If Scott had the nerve to make that comment to the media about the world number one tennis player’s sudden retirement, I can only imagine what Larry Scott says and does in PRIVATE regarding players and the tour. No wonder Maria Sharapova was willing to call WTA management out publicly.

Fannie Says:

Glad to hear of Justine’s retirement. I give her credit as a “good” tennis player but as a person, she has always ended up Zero.

ShayHay Says:

Justine was a doper and everyone knows that. The level of Henin worship on this site is just disgusting. She had a beautiful game, but it wasn’t achieved naturally. The WTA gave her a way out by allowing her to retire without shame. She never did anything for me as a player anyway, but I can respect “some” of her talent. However, tennis goddess, she was not.

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