Against all better judgment, I love Justine Henin. I already shared my feelings on her personality in the comments section of my BUSTED post – yes, I actually wrote an angry message on her website after her infamous Aussie Open retirement, declaring that I would never be her fan again. I soon gave up boycotting her matches – I realized that I was only punishing myself.
The woman is not nice, not cute, not popular, and barely sympathetic, but she is brilliant. Like other artists/heroes of mine, her personal life and behavior do not always match up to the perfection of her signature talent. Raymond Chandler was a boozer, James Brown a wife-beater and Gertrude Stein could have stood up against the Nazis. When you think about it, Justine’s sins are rather minor in comparison to those greats, but her brilliance burns just as bright. She’s an inspiration to anyone who’s sick of picture-perfect role models who seem tailor-made for magazine covers and corporate sponsorships.
Speaking of style over substance, how about that Maria Sharapova? She may never be in the same league as Justine in terms of tennis talent, but she is the No. 1 competitor in the women’s game right now. Although she has highly-marketable looks, she, like Justine, can’t quite fit into that Ms. Congeniality mold. Behind the leggy-blonde image lies a hard-scrabble competitor with a bludgeoning, no-frills game. She’s one of only two players (the other being Serena) that is willing and able to challenge Justine (this time for almost 3.5 hours – the longest three-setter in tournament history!) The Russian deserves credit (and those endorsements) for bringing the Big Game and the Big Fight to the biggest stages of her sport.
I didn’t see the match – just read the comments on Bodo’s blog – but I’m thrilled with the outcome, nonetheless. This match confirmed Justine’s rightful place as the Queen of Tennis right now, but it also redeemed Sharapova’s flailing season. This is the kind of match that could give Maria the courage next season to face down her ultimate nemesis – Warrior Princess Serena Williams.
The Year End belongs to Justine, but Maria’s poised to take the Aussie Open next season.