2010 WTA Preview: Will Justine Henin Resume Her Domination?
by Sean Randall | January 7th, 2010, 3:41 pm

I have taken many shots at women’s tennis but after a truly dreadful 2009, I think the WTA is poised for a significant rebound as we usher in the new decade. At the forefront of the resurgence is Justine Henin’s return to tennis. Will she sizzle or will she fizzle in her comeback bid, or maybe just end up somewhere in between? That’s the question. ADHEREL

What I do know is that when you add Henin into a pot that includes Kim Clijsters, a healthier Maria Sharapova, the sisters, Serena and Venus, the Russians and even the Serbs, you really have what could be a flavorful, unpredictable year of women’s tennis ahead. And I have to say that I’m looking forward to it!

So what’s to come?

First, just as Clijsters did when she came back I think Henin is also going to get he share of Slams. It may not happen as early as Melbourne but Justine’s already my favorite to win the French Open. And I think she’ll finish the year No. 1 because if she can get back to peak or near peak form, which I think she can, she’ll be better than Clijsters, better than the Russians while Serena, her true main threat, simply doesn’t play tough at enough tournaments.

Still, Henin, who’ll turn 28 in a few months, will have quite the mountain to climb to return to her throne. Players who rely on timing more than power – like Henin – are going to take longer to find their gear following extended layoffs. Henin will also have to deal with being unseeded or lowly seeded at the majority of her the tournaments over the first half of the season, so there’s that danger lurking at every draw ceremony. Plus, she also has a history of not playing many tournaments during the season and there have been durability issues with her in the past.

I think Serena will still collect one, maybe two majors likely at Wimbledon and/or later this month in Melbourne where she’ll hopefully meet Justine at some point. With Serena, it’s hard to say where her motivation and interest levels will be. If she’s into it and committed to tennis she can dominate. If she’s not then she’ll be in trouble. I’m betting with Venus on the decline and with the arrival of Henin and Clijsters she won’t be able duplicate her 2009 run. But maybe the Belgians will give her that added spark and focus.

Clijsters got her US Open win and if things break right I think she can repeat in New York or steal the Melbourne title, but it’s a longshot. The mom will also likely not be playing a full schedule but I think she’ll play well enough in the Slams to return to the Top 5. She’s powerful, fit, mentally strong and with two Slams already in her pocket and a stable family life at home, she should be a solid contender at all four Slams.

So among those three will emerge the year-end No. 1. I say Henin.

The next tier is a hodgepodge of Russians, Serbs and newcomers.

If Dinara Safina can get her back in check and her mind right, she certainly is capable of maintaining her current Top 3 ranking. Dinara should play looser this year and free of the pressures of being in spotlight as she was a year ago when she was “it” girl on the tour. This year, Justine, Kim, Maria and Serena will assume much of that burden leaving Dinara to reside in the shadows where she’s clearly more comfortable. And I think that will her settle her down and body-willing should translate into some decent results.

For me, Sharapova is the real wildcard. If her shoulder and serve are back to 100% she’ll figure into the Slam mix and No. 1 race. But if there’s any hint of lingering issues she’s going to have a hard time breaking into the Top 5. (Speaking of the Top 5, Maria hasn’t posted a Top 5 win in nearly two years.) At just 22 she’s still got a lot of time and tennis left, but shoulder injuries can be a killer.

Unfortunately for the other Russians, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva, it’s hard to see any room at the top where they’ll fit in. I like Sveta and Elena to finish Top 10 and Vera made steady progress last year, but they’ll be Slamless in the end.

Same for Jelena Jankovic, who I think will have a better 2010 than 2009 and may even make another Slam final, but I don’t think she can stay totally healthy and devoid of drama enough to challenge for the top as she once did.

Will Jelena or Elena ever win a Slam? Justine and Kim’s return do nothing to help their cause! Sorry!

As for the newcomers, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka are great players and they have bright futures ahead of them, just not this year. Sabine Lisicki could certainly ride here powerful serve into the Top 15 and I think Alisa Kleybanova and Anastasia Pavlychenkova can make a lot of noise also.

Overall, I think it should be a great year for women’s tennis. Last year really crapped the bed with the number of chokes, tanks and low quality tennis we say. So this year I hope the drama stays but the quality improves. I think it will.

My 2010 year-end predictions:
1. Henin
2. Serena
3. Clijsters
4. Safina
5. Sharapova
6. Wozniacki
7. Kuznetsova
8. Azarenka
9. Jankovic
10. Dementieva

You Might Like:
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Serena v Henin: 2010 Australian Open Final Preview
Henin Retirement Statement by WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott
Justine Henin Is Back! She’s Now Coaching Elina Svitolina
Henin v Wozniacki, Roddick, Clijsters, Nadal Feature Wednesday in Miami

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27 Comments for 2010 WTA Preview: Will Justine Henin Resume Her Domination?

sar Says:

I think Woznicki has taken the drama queen crown from JJ.

Kimmi Says:

I don’t care who finish number one but I am glad the Belgians are back. WTA tour needed them. Hopefully they will shut Serena up from making ridiculous statements. I bet if Clijsters did not play last year Serena would have collected the US Open as well.

Sharapova seem to be getting her rhythm back. The jury is still out for the Serbian girls. And I agree with you Sean..it is worrying times for venus.

Ivanovic Vs Henin in Brisbane tonight..lets hope for a great match.

jane Says:

I could see Ivanovic breaking back into the top ten if she gets her game back in order; she is a clean ball striker, and besides her great forehand, she can add some variety when the need arises. She needs to be mentally strong though. Just look at her AO –> FO 2008 run if you don’t believe in her abilities. I’d say Sharapova could end up even higher than #5 but that seems a reasonable guess for now. I am surprised to see you kept Safina so high in the pecking order Sean. I am unsure of where she’ll end up; she has a lot to defend, and it seems to me I read somewhere that she is injured (back maybe?).

Kimmi Says:

Henin very aggressive. Just broke Ivanovic twice in the 1st set. Lots of Aleeeez

jane Says:

True Kimmi, Justine looks good – nice to see her playing again! But it’s also nice to see Ivanovic not totally cave in mentally and at least fight to get one break back in the the first set. Ana was broken to open her serving in the second set; she’s still having so many problems with the ball toss.For her sake, I hope she gets that sorted soon.

Kimmi Says:

Yeah the ball toss is bad, under pressure her serve just crambled. Justine serve is not on par either, the game Ivanovic broke in the 1st set justine hits 3 double faults.

Ivanovic has been good with her forehand on those low slice BH from justine. Lots of talent but has a lot of work to do..lets see what happens in the 2nd set.

jane Says:

Well the break back Ivanovic just got was due to some good play on her part so that’s a good sign; she’s not willing to go out without fighting anyhow. You’re right, Henin’s only got in 44% first serves so far; I expect someone like Sharapova would be ripping the returns by now! LOL.

Kimmi Says:

aaarg..I thought Ana was coming back…

jane Says:

Ah Ivano broken again; looks like Henin will be in the finals!

Kimmi Says:

But Justine has always struggled with her serve..must be the fact that she is short..

Sharapova has always given Justine problems because of her style of play…great match-up.

Kimmi Says:

Aleez Justine. Looks like it will be all Belgians final.

Great comeback from Retirement Justine, reaching the final on her 1st tournament.

Ana back to drawing board…does not look good.

Lady Says:

Hopefully the Belgians will fall flat on their faces in 2010.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Clijsters and perhaps Henin give a nice short thrill, but what the sport doesn’t need is to keep replaying the battles of the last ten years. We need new stars. Where are they? So far none of the younguns has shown they are in for champion careers.

Kimo Says:

Here are my predictions:

1. Clijsters
2. Serena
3. Sharapova
4. Dementieva
5. Wozniacki
6. Henin
7. Kuznetsova
8. Azarenka
9. Jankovic
10. Safina

I’ll just sign of by saying that I wish Kim, Maria and Elena a good 2010 :)

Kimo Says:

One more thing: Ivanovic is the biggest question mark for me in 2010. If she plays the type of tennis she used to until mid 2008, she’ll definitely end up in the top 10.

jane Says:

Yep Ivanovic is a question mark alright, but I suppose, all things considered, she didn’t do too badly reaching the semis in this event. So we’ll see.

Sean Randall Says:

I don’t even think Ivanovic can return to the Top 10. Not this year. In fact, I think she has a better chance of finishing outside the Top 30 than inside the Top 10. Again, that’s for this year.

Maybe she’s fixed her serve and gotten her game back, and maybe frolicking about with Adam Scott will do her some good, then again, maybe not.

I really could see her slide out of the Top 50 if she doesn’t do well this month (i.e. in Melbourne).

rsp Says:

the year end top ten contest should have been for the wta instead of atp..it is so much more unpredictable!
will sharapova have mended her shoulder (and serve)?
will henin find the form which got her the serena-stopper-in-slams tag?
will clijsters, with her daughter and everything,be motivated enough to want to claim the no 1 ranking? (it seriously could be hers for the taking)
which safina will we see..the one who reached 4 finals in as many tournaments (april-may) or the one who lost to a 226 ranked chinese qualifier?
will serena realise the importance of non-slams, now that her slam victories may not be a walk-in-the-park as last year?
will some completely unknown person dethrown them all?

frankly, i agree with sean that sharapova is the most unpredictable..but since she played quite a few tournaments last year and didnt manage anything great i dont think she will return to the top 10.
further, with both the belgians more than capable of stopping serena in the slams, I dont think she will have a good year too. venus and safina are going down…elena and jelena, if they couldnt win a slam last year, with the minimal competition, i really doubt whether they will this year, though will play consistently enough to remain in the top-ten .

year end top 10:
1. henin (ok..u may say its too early to give her this rank, but look at the competition!)
2. clijsters
3. serena (only wimbledon, if at all)
4. dementieva (consistent slam semifinalist)
5. jankovic
6. azarenka
7. wickmayer (well somebody had to fill in the void! shes best of the rest..)
8. wozniaki
9. kuznetsova (will lose the clay court points with henin back, but will hang in the top ten)
10. pannetta

rsp Says:

Jane, look at the opponents she beat to reach the semis! she is being stretched to 3 sets by players ranked outside the top 50… so, much as i would like to see her do well, i really doubt a top ten return for her.

jane Says:

rsp, you have a point about Ivanovic’s opponents. I’ll just wait and see how she makes out at the AO before I make any drastic calls about her, but there is no doubt that ball toss is a problem. She needs to work on her serve.

Kimmi Says:

jane, for Ivanovic you wait till the AO before you make any calls ? AO is in a weeks time..Ivanovic form is nowhere near anything good to be expected at the AO. I will give her six moths maybe. She seem to be hungry enough to want to bring her best form back..maybe she can but she will need time and a lot of hard work.

Does she know that she can be as rich as sharapova if she can play well and win few more majors ? She should fight for this opportunity…

jane Says:

What I meant to say Kimmi is that I will wait before I write her off like Sean seems to be doing; it’s too soon in the season to tell. I could see her finishing in the top 20 for sure, but I am sure she’d want to be back in the top ten.

Christopher Says:

Personally, I think Serena will definitely still be at the top this year. She won Wimbledon and Australian, and didn’t play bad at the other majors. Not to mention, she made history by earning over 6.5 million in a single year. It’s not fair for everyone to vote Venus off either. Her success is usually at Wimbledon, but she’s still very capable of victories at any majors. Honestly, I just don’t think Henin is going to come back and blow everyone off, I just dont see it. She’s a great champion, but… I like Kim’s style and form of play better. She seems better than before she retired. I think she’ll have a great year as well. I’m rooting for Sharapova to get back on top too. And, I think Jankovic has it in her to win some major tournaments. The rest of the field is kinda a mystery to me.

Tatasha Says:

This is what I predict!

1. Serena
2. Clijsters
3. Sharapova
4. Safina
5. Venus
6. Jankovic
7. Dementieva
8. Azarenka
9. Kuznetsova
10. Henin (?)

Michel Says:

These predictions are a joke! As much as you all hate to admit it, Serena Williams will be on top for at least the next year. Despite Henin’s run at Brisbane, what became clear is that she’s not mentally up to the task, and probably won’t be for another year. She clearly pulled out of Sydney because her ego—-just as it did when she retired, could not stand another drubbing back-to-back. So I say that Tatasha is the only one whose on the money when it comes to predictions.

jo Says:

oh my heart goes to henin. yes, best form not back yet, but look at the steely mental will and her variety of shots. the ability to turn around and the gutsy shots in big points. give her some time, she will be back on the top. just nice to watch her play.

Josh Says:

I respect you top ten as they are all contenders, however as we are evolving the power game has been going for a long time, and therefor we should expect someone to demolish this tactic, the only player to have done this and not mentioned to make top 10 this year along with strong progression herself is Samantha Stosur, she has a game that disables a power base-liners game and when on song she is unbeatable. if she lifts another level “theres a player” to be considered in the top 10. she doesn’t grunt and make silly noises so can contain herself, plays with a mens raquet, has the best 2nd serve on the wta tour and uses a heavy ball tactic, and is currently 1 place outside the top 10. wait and see.

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