Serena Williams v. Justine Henin in Australian Open Final, Who’s the Pick?
by Sean Randall | January 29th, 2010, 12:06 pm
  • 63 Comments

What an absolutely dream weekend for the Australian Open. Tennis really could not have had a better start to the year. We started out the year with Rafael Nadal v. Nikolay Davydenko in Doha, Andy Roddick v. Radek Stepanek in Brisbane along with Justine Henin v. Kim Clijsters. And now for the main course this weekend we are rewarded with Serena Williams v. Justine Henin today and then tomorrow Roger Federer v. Andy Murray.

Can it get much better?

First up is the women’s final.

This is the match we all wanted to see when we first heard that Henin was coming back to tennis. And sure enough the Tennis God’s allowed to it happen. The unseeded Henin could have landed anywhere in the Australian Open draw, and fortunately she found a home on the opposite half to Serena. Henin still had an extremely tough path with wins over Elena Dementieva, Yanina Wickmayer and Nadia Petrova before skating through Zheng Jie the other day in the semifinals.

Serena was granted a much easier draw and the 11-time Slam champ was virtually untested until a quarterfinal encounter against Victoria Azarenka. The Belarussian who beat Serena last March in Miami again had Serena DOA up a set and 4-0. But we all know how that turned out. Sorry Azarenka fans.

Serena then struggled against Li Na but survived and reached the final where she’ll meet Justine in the long-awaited resumption of their rivalry. And what a frosty rivalry it is.

Justine holds the slight edge winning seven of the 13 meetings including the last three in Grand Slam play. But on hardcourts it’s 4-1 in favor of Serena. In their most recent clash it was Serena pounding on the diminutive Belgian 6-2, 6-0 at 2008 Miami. But in their most memorable meeting it was Henin and her infamous “hand” incident from the French Open in 2003 getting the victory. In this battle of the best two women from the last decade, it’s safe to say that they do not like each other at all, which for us fans is a wonderful thing.

Also rewind to just a few weeks ago when Justine pulled out of the Sydney event after the draw revealed her second round opponent to be Serena. Justine claimed she was having leg problems following her Brisbane loss to Kim, but I’m guessing it had more to do with the prospect of playing Serena in just the seventh match of her comeback.

Now Justine has had some more court time to work out the kinks and clear the cobwebs. And she just played the best two sets in her crushing win over Zheng Jie. But the problem is Serena is no Zheng Jie. There are virtually no similarities outside of them both being right-handed and playing on the WTA circuit.

Serena has the serve, the power, the confidence, the experience and the history of playing well in Melbourne – she just won the doubles title (again). She’s No. 1 for a reason: She knows how to win Slams.

Henin has seven of her own, but I think it’s just too early for her to start adding that kind of hardware to her trophy case. Plus, Serena is not going to want to lose to formerly-retired Belgians in back-to-back Slams, especially not one she must detest. So I think Serena saves her best tennis for last and overpowers and serves Justine right off the court. The pick is Serena in straight sets.

And no, before you ask, unfortunately I don’t think Serena will have another egregious US Open-type meltdown nor will she try to bite Justine’s head off when they shake hands at the net. But it never hurts to dream. It is the dream weekend after all, isn’t it?


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63 Comments for Serena Williams v. Justine Henin in Australian Open Final, Who’s the Pick?

andrea Says:

i only watched henin’s semifinal match which was clearly no indication of what a challenge might look like for her.

i’m looking forward to watching her against serena.

allez!


Skorocel Says:

“Also rewind to just a few weeks ago when Justine pulled out of the Sydney event after the draw revealed her second round opponent to be Serena. Justine claimed she was having leg problems following her Brisbane loss to Kim, but I’m guessing it had more to do with the prospect of playing Serena in just the seventh match of her comeback.”

Me too ;-) The question is, did she really fear her or did she simply not want to show all her new trumps (if there are any?) so early? I’m hoping for the latter…


steve Says:

I can’t pick, because it’s too close, but I’m rooting for Henin.

There will be no overpowering. Henin differs from all of Serena’s previous opponents in that she can read Serena’s serve better and do more with the return.

Henin’s all-court skills and variety can discombobulate Serena and force her to play defense, which she can do surprisingly well, but it’s not her strength.

For Henin to have a chance, she’ll have to serve well and stay on the offensive from the get-go.

Whichever way it goes, it will be very close, hopefully three sets.


Eric Says:

If the match is straight sets, it’s because Henin won. Serena will need three to win, which is where my money would probably be, were I a betting man.

(Although my head says Henin is more rested and has been less tested by much better opponents and thus should have the advantage, my gut says Serena will come up with the win here anyway… but I hope my head is right.)


Cax Maxxie Says:

LOL!

I had a good laugh reading this! Beautiful stuff. And I do agree that one thing she hates the most is doing the same mistake TWICE!

After her meltdown at Flushing Meadow last year, Serena will certainly make sure that no another magician from Belgium will bring her down. Kim denied Serena her chance to defend her title at Big Apple, and most likely, Henin will have to pay for Kim this time around.

Serena will defend her title here in Melbourne.
Mark my words :)


Gregoire Says:

Strangely, I had the same dream as you… Serena trying to bite Justine’s head off. One excluded and the other injured, both for the rest of the season…

Well, next slam finale would oppose ranking 156 against ranking 267 taking into account the state of woman tennis.


jane Says:

I am hoping for a Henin win. It would continue to shake things up. I agree with the idea that Serena plays “surprisingly” good defense (I saw that in the Li Na match), but I think Henin plays a different style than anything Serena has faced thus far. So maybe that gives Henin an edge? Anyhow, best of luck to Justine. Hope it’s a good match!


Kimo Says:

I’m sorry to be the guy who injects some realism into the debate, but it’ll be Serena in two comfortable sets.

I know that Henin winning would be more poetic, but the fact is that Serena is just too strong right now and Henin isn’t.


Von Says:

Henin has a very good chance to derail the Serena express, as Serena has issues with her leg, which is clearly manifested, when she’s being pushed around the court. For example, in her match vs. Azarenka, Azarenka had Serena running a lot and she was breathing very heavily. If Henin employs the same tactic as Azarenka, and, I’m sure she most probably will, I think she’ll win, as she’s more mentally stronger than Azarenka and the other opponents Serena has faced thus far.

I say Serena in three (3), or maybe I’m hoping for that anyway.


Kimmi Says:

Allez Henin! prove everyboby wrong and take serena down. Will be rooting for you. what a great comeback you have made already! Allez Allez!


Veronica Says:

Indeed, it’s going to be a great match to watch. I’m staying up ’til 2:30am (my time central) just to catch it live. Serena will overcome and conquer! It’s gonna be a hell of a match.


Eric Says:

Kimo, you might be right, but I will be shocked if Serena wins in straight sets. In case you weren’t paying attention, Serena was down and out against Azarenka and Li Na (who was lucky to get to the semis) put up a good fight too. I suspect Serena will still win, in a close three-setter, but my heart says Henin can do it – and I would be unsurprised if she does it in 3 (which I give Serena no chance of doing). Anyway, I guess we’ll see in a few hours… :)


Eric Says:

In the last sentence, I meant 2 sets, not 3.


tennis served fresh Says:

I’m going with my gut and saying Henin will win the title. She’s much more rested than Serena. It’s not going to be a straight set win for either of them. Serena is wrapped from head to toe and looks rather tired, where as Henin is only needing to work on her service game….


Ron Says:

As highlighted by Randall, there is no love-lost between these two Grand Slam Champs. Serena is generally quite gracious and generous towards her opponents. However since that “hand” incident a few years back, the tension between these two is palpable and therefore, PERSONAL. This makes Serena even MORE dangerous, more focused and determined. Henin may be a bit more rested and fresh from her time away, I seriously doubt there’s a player in the WTA that could take Serena down when the gloves come-on.

Serena is straight sets.


kbw Says:

Sean, I love your piece but you are punctuation challenged. Gods, not God’s.


cliffbarnes Says:

Sean,
A very quick look at the fall out of your previous predictions makes me think Henin will actually win the final. Thank you!


jane Says:

Oops, Laura Robson is getting walloped in the girl’s final right now. It’s early in the second but she’s down a break already.


Tejuz Says:

Ron Says:
“However since that “hand” incident a few years back, the tension between these two is palpable and therefore, PERSONAL. This makes Serena even MORE dangerous, more focused and determined.”

Since that hand incident, they have played quite a few matches.. and in one year(guess it was 2006 or 2007) she lost all her GS matches against Henin and all of them at the quarterfinal stage.


Tony D Ekwe Says:

Serena, you will win it in straight set.
Your wrap from head to toe and looks of tiredness will push you to clean success against your challenger in JESUS name !!


sar Says:

I want Nestor and Z to win today and Bryans to win the next one.


sar Says:

Pliskova was probably extra motivated to beat Robson because her sister got beaten by Laura yesterday.

I will tape Henin Nestor and Z and watch tomorrow a.m. Night all.


fed is afraid Says:

will the linespeople be given extra
security if serena is in danger of
losing?? and to the second recently
unretired Belgian??


Theo Says:

I believe Serena will win this match in 3 sets. Henin will attempt to unsettle Serena in the first set by coming into the net frequently. However, Serena will come home with a wet sail.


jim slavin Says:

henin in 2. she is just too doggone tough!


Skorocel Says:

fed is afraid: LOL :-)


Long Live The King Says:

Henin in 2 :)


shanghai danisuh Says:

Henin’s brains and speed and shotmaking beat big-axxed slow-footed stupid American power — again, probably in straights. If not, Serena will fold. She’s in terrible physical shape. Has anyone noticed??????


Huh Says:

IMO Henin will perhaps feel some pressure here coz it has been almost two years since she’s played in such an important match as she’s gonna play today. This match has the higest on stake being a slam final and that may bring on quite a bit of heat on Henin. Moreover Serena’s hardly ever lost by mental collapses in GSs. And right now, Henin’s not shown signs of playing at her best either, neither physically(not serving well) nor mentally(as was clear by the no.of match points and set points she conceded at the start here). Meanwhile Serena, whether at her best or not, is always the most difficult lady to beat in a slam in particular. And most importantly this is the AO which Serena’s won 4 times already which means one’s gotta assume it’s one of her preferred surfaces as well. All this makes me think that Serena’s the upper hand in this match and is more likely to beat Henin. So my pick is Serena though I’m neutral. Best of luck to both. Hope it’ll be an exciting final and will go the distance to determine the outcome.


Kimo Says:

I hope we have a good match. It almost certainly won’t reach the heights tomorrow’s match will reach, though.


Ra Says:

Allez Justine!


Kimo Says:

Justine has fried two challenges in the very first game. Nervous, veeery nervous. So is Serena.


Ra Says:

OK, that was a rough time for a bad call and a correction…


Kimo Says:

I don’t know who the crowd is booing, but it’s not Serena’s fault she got lucky.

Rude, plain and simple.


Ra Says:

Beautiful! Back on serve.


Kimo Says:

Serena has shown good mental toughness in that set. Henin put her under pressure right from the start and Serena just hung in there. Also Henin missed a lot of chances while Serena made full use of hers.


Ra Says:

No doubt, Kimo. Second set was a little different, though. These two deserve to go to three, no doubt.


Gannu Says:

Good the match is heating up… one set all…Come on.. I am Ok with anyone winning ;-)


Kimo Says:

Serena’s movement just sucks today.


Kimo Says:

Serena finally woke up. I was wondering when she’ll start running after everything and pumping her fists and talking to herself. Henin, as predicted, couldn’t sustain the level of play she had in the last three games of the 2nd set.


Ra Says:

Sick lob! And then a double fault…


Ra Says:

And that’s all she wrote. Congratulations to Serena’s fans.


Kimo Says:

Well done, Serena. She was playing no where near her best but persevered.


madmax Says:

great fight back from justine to make it 1 set all, and I really thought the third set would be more of a fight.

But brilliant that justine is back on the tour, along with clijsters. The women’s game got just a bit more exciting!

Congratulations to all serena fans – she is just truly amazing. Justine made a GS final, after 2 years off the tour! That is incredible in itself and she should gain confidence from her performance, leading in to all the other tournaments for this year.

I think Justine did exceptionally well and should be proud of her performance.


Huh Says:

So, Serena is the 2010 AO Champion.
5th AO title to her. Wow!
Way to go Serena!

Kudos to her for handling the pressure of defending her title so well!
CONGRATS TO SERENA WILLIAMS AND HER FANS! SHE DESERVES IT.


Huh Says:

For Mrs.Jane, Kimmi and other Henin fans,

Not a bad performance from her considering that she’d such a super tough opponenent to tackle today, all this after coming back from her long sabbatical. She’s IMO still getting used to the conditions and may hopefully for yours’ sake be ready by May-June to win the FO 2010, if things go as she must have planned to. Good Luck to Henin for the rest of the year.


Huh Says:

Been There and Mrs.Von:

Were you people rooting for Serena today?
If yes, then I’d like to congratulate both of you on her great victory.
But if you were like me rooting for neither of them, then even better, and I’m sure you must have enjoyed all the fun like me without any nail-biting. ;)


Huh Says:

Maxi:

Stay cool if you can for tomorrow’s match! ;) Our guy seems to be very interested in winning the title no matter what he says or thinks or is interpreted from his statements.Way to Go Fed!


Huh Says:

Mrs.Margot:

Any special treat from you if Murray wins tomorrow? I hope so. ;)


margot Says:

You’ve just got to admire Serena. What a wonderful champ she is! Now I wonder how she’d have fared against Martina…..


margot Says:

huh: if Murray wins….whaddya mean if….???


Huh Says:

“Her meeting with Williams has been highly anticipated ever since the draw was made, but the world number one claimed she wasn’t even thinking about the final.

“I don’t think about it, I just go out and do whatever I can,” said Williams, the top seed.”"

Serena thinks just like Nadal, no? Totally focussed on her own game. That’s why so dangerous!


Huh Says:

“margot Says:
huh: if Murray wins….whaddya mean if….???”

Are you sure Murray’ll win? Wow then and kudos to you for always having faith in him! I can’t imagine how crazy the celebrations’ll be back his home if Murray finally wins a GS for Britain in 150000 years! ;) I’d be among the first to congratulate you, promise!


Kimo Says:

More often than not, Mats Wilander is right.


Huh Says:

I don’t know why, but I’ve always taken interest in Wilander’s views.


Kimo Says:

Huh, maybe the fact that he was the last person before Federer to win three slams in the same year has something to do with that :)


Kimo Says:

I love this line, because it answers all those who argue that had Borg or McEnroe played the Australian they would have had more slams:

“There are guys who could have won more, for sure, but didn’t because they didn’t work as hard as Roger,” Wilander said.


sar Says:

Didn’t Wilander say that Tsonga was the best player in the world?


jane Says:

sar, yeah, I believe Wilander said that; wasn’t he also the one who said Fed has no b—s when he plays Rafa? And I don’t think he meant tennis balls!


Leenah_2010 Says:

shanghai danisuh Says:

Henin’s brains and speed and shot making beat big-axxed slow-footed stupid American power — again, probably in straights. If not, Serena will fold. She’s in terrible physical shape. Has anyone noticed??????
*****************************

Boy, don’t YOU come off as looking STUPID. Serena made Justine Look like an amateur out there. Serena was the one displaying an all-court game, who ran Justine around like a fool.

I guess Justine folded didn’t she?

Again, you came off looking like the fool you are.

Serena is the BEST PLAYER OF HER GENERATION.

NOT JUSTINE.


Rajesh Says:

Serena is the best of all times !!!! No Graf, No Navratilova, No ing, No Court and No Evert ! It has to be Miss Williams – Serena Williams !


Independent Says:

Still happy for Serena!!

Why baby Henin and make excuses for her loss? She is no different than others who have better results after being away from the game for a similar period. Kim came back and won a GS. Serena came back and won a GS (she was #81 and beat #1 Maria in the AO 6-0, 6-2).

Glad Henin is back and look forward to her playing Maria, Kim, Azarenka, Svet and Venus. Henin wants Wimbledon…well she better be ready for a fight.

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