Oh, the mournful life of Justine Henin. In some ways, it’s impossible to feel much pity for her – she’s just too remote, not to mention too successful, to excite my emotions. But how can you not feel for someone so obviously pained by her sudden and faultless separation from tennis (and rue the time she wasted during her first retirement – when perhaps a six month hiatus would have had the rejuvenating effect she needed.) Oh well, that’s the bottom line about Justine, and also her main rival, Serena Williams, for that matter: they will never behave quite how you’re hoping they will behave – in, fact, sometimes they will disappoint you to the point of anger and rejection – yet there’s no denying their awesomely unique talents and value to the sport of tennis. If Justine and Serena were fictional characters, many a senior thesis would be devoted to comparing and contrasting their enigmatic personalities.
Here are some of Justine’s words from a Valentine’s Day press conference in Belgium, where she spoke to journalists for the first time since January 26, when she announced her retirement from the game due to a serious elbow injury (via the AFP)
“I regard ending my career more like a sentence that’s been handed down than a decision I’ve made.”
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries throughout my career but this time, at 29, I just can’t go on.”
“You have to be reasonable about things. When I came back from Australia, I had consultations with three different doctors. The will is there, but physically I can’t do it.”
“It got to the point that I needed 10 minutes in the morning just to get my elbow functional.”
“The ligament wasn’t solid enough to handle the intensity of the game. For me, it’s like a sentence. Now I have to mourn the end of my career.”
“I’m going to miss all the great feelings you have as a professional tennis player. I hope I’ll pick the racquet up again one day, but more than anything I want to live a normal life.”
She cited her best tennis victory as a 7-5, 5-7, 8-6 win over Anastasia Myskina in the 2004 Olympic Games, where she went on to win the Gold Medal. (via The Canadian Press)
Henin reportedly asked that any journalists who participated in the doping rumors leave the room where the press conference was being held. (via Tennis.com). Rumor had it that her sudden, unexplained retirement in 2008, while ranked No. 1 in the world, was due to some kind of doping scandal or cover-up – never substantiated, obviously.
“That hurts me, and all the people who have been part of my entourage. I can’t accept that, nor will I forget or forgive. I have never cheated.” (Via AFP)
She calls the career-ending injury to her elbow a “complicated” and is pondering surgery.
“There is a physical limit. There is a lot of damage,” Henin said. “Only surgery would give me a small chance.”
“I injured the tendon, the ligament and the nerve. It’s quite a complicated case.”
“I hope I will be able to live normally, without surgery. In a few months I will have to make a decision on that.” (via ReutersUK)
As much as I couldn’t re-warm to Justine during her comeback (I won’t go into the boring old “how I fell out of love with Justine Henin yarn) – her second, sudden and seemingly irreversible retirement is a huge disappointment to fans of tennis. Even if she never quite rose to her previous, 2008, heights, she brought a big gamer presence to the court, especially when she faced similar big gamers like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters.
This helps lift the mood: Now it’s time, Justine!