After the Australian Open, I cannot help but notice patchy opinions and comparisons of the great players, that in my attempt to analyze the differences.
Rankings when retired World number 4; Retired/comeback May 2007/mid 2009 ;1st tournament QF defeated by Safina ; 2nd tournament 3rd round by Jankovic ; 3rd tournament Champion ; Playing style baseline basher/ deep ground strokes ; Pressure no expectation on comeback
Rankings when retired World number 1; Retired/comeback May 2008/Jan 2010 ;
1st tournament Final defeated by Clijsters ; 2nd tournament Final defeated by Williams ;
3rd tournament unknown ; Playing style variety with precision based tecnniques; Pressure huge expectation to replicate Kim
If by looking at the facts, Kim has come back strong as first appearance in grand slam, but far from it that Henin is less impressive in the second tournament only. No doubts Clijsters’ form was seemingly better when she played in US open but her style of playing is probably easier to pick up in a shorter timeframe backed with strong physical training, as opposed to Henin’s style which needs to come with time to tune in the accuracy of each shot in her complexity of game plan.
On the other hand, Clijsters came back without much expectation of winning as a wildcard by others, as such that with her brilliance she stormed everyone by surprise when she reached the final and passed through Serena. By the time Henin arrived to Australian Open, all eyes were on her to make the same progress. But mind you, then everyone on tour was alert on this potential dangerous wildcard, with Serena especially increased additional training on the morning of their final.
Not to mention the road to QF in the first week was especially testing for Henin to beat very strong and upcoming players, than those of Clijsters on route to US open’s 2nd week. The winning of the final often depends on who your opponent is. Caroline, the first time finalist compared to Serena, who flourishes and plays her best at final.
The pressure on Henin was, thus far from anyone could bear, being known and kept advertised as the former number 1 to do a miracle on her second tournament back. With that mental and physical torture, how she was able to still stay focused and at ease with herself and played with such sparks on court, that in itself speaks volume.
And what about Williams when everyone seems to be showering praises that she is greatest ever? Who could remember when Williams came out from injuries in 2004, it took her some time, actually years to recover her form and regained number one again in September 2008 after Henin retired.
Then, given the magnificent runs of the two Belgians, why is everyone urging them to be at the top of rank again within a year? My only answer is that if people are longing to give the number one to someone more worthy? Or purely women’s tennis was at such a stale stage that people are yearning for some quality games and change of hands at the very top?
Be patient, and there time will tell (and it is too early to tell), if any one of the Belgians will be able to return to top form consistently in the coming years and if Williams will not be threaten by them. My bet is, Henin has the mind and body to come back stronger than ever.