By Ritesh Gupta
When its on full song, Justine Henin’s backhand is surely one of the most captivating sights in the sport.
Any connoisseur would rank the Belgian’s single-handed backhand as probably one of the best strokes in the history of women’s tennis. And for fans, its just pure delight to see the way Henin executes the same time and again.
Tennis is being increasingly dominated by those who are gifted with the right blend of strong physique and talent. So much so that at times facing the likes of Williams sisters looks like a daunting task. But as seen over the years, if Henin is in form, nothing can stop her. What she lacks in height (Henin is 5ft. 6 inches tall), Henin makes up for the same with her groundstrokes.
Talking of Henin’s backhand again, its just not a weapon which forces the pace or results in winners. Its equally strong in defence and too consistent to frustrate the opponents.
A case in point was the way Henin clawed her way in the final set against Maria Sharapova at the French Open Sunday. The Russian, who is trying to find her way back to the top, attacked Henin relentlessly when the game resumed after being suspended due to darkness at one set each on Saturday. Sharapova took an early lead in the final set but Henin just didn’t give up.
One point aptly summarised Henin’s determination. It came in the eight game of the final set. Serving at 3-4, Sharapova produced a barrage of aggressive strokes. In one of the rallies, it looked as if Henin’s backhand would wilt under pressure. Even as Sharapova’s assaults and even her shrieks touched their peak, it just failed to crack Henin’s backhand. Henin not only broke that service game but she wrapped up the match in style to complete her 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
Henin next faces Samantha Stosur of Australia for a place in the quarterfinal stage. If she goes all the way, Henin would be pocketing her fifth French Open title.
Recently, when Henin was interviewed, she felt excited as well as nervous going into the tournament.
Irrespective of how Henin feels, everyone out in the field knows the Belgian is a dangerous opponent. Especially considering that this year Henin has made a comeback and her hunger for more is getting stronger and stronger.