Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin is better than all the rest.
Justine Henin remembers being at the French Open as a little kid and telling her mom, maybe someday when I grow up I will win this tournament1.
She was right. Henin, now 25, has won the past three French Open women’s titles, and has seven Grand Slam championships in her career. In an era of women’s tennis that is best known for tall, powerful players like Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters, the 165cm, 57kg girl from Belgium has become a dominant2 force. But it hasn’t been easy.
Love of the Game
Henin grew up in Rochefort, Belgium. She began playing tennis at age five, picking up her brother and father’s love of the sport. “I would always go with them and beg them to let me play a little,” she says.
The Henins lived next to a tennis club, and in the summer Justine would spend all day there. Even in those early years, there was never any doubt as to what she wanted to do with her life.“I knew when I was six or seven that I wanted to be a professional tennis player,” she says.“I never worried about not making it.”
Henin steadily worked her way through the junior ranks, but things were tough at times. Her mother, Francoise, died of cancer in 1995, when Justine was 12. Henin also struggled to stay healthy. Those obstacles slowed her rise to the top. Just when things were looking up3, a serious illness threatened her career.
Henin won her first major, the French Open, in June 2003. Then she won the Australian Open in January ’04. But soon after, she was diagnosed4 with a virus that drained5 all her energy. She had to sit out6 for three months but recovered in time to win the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. Since then, she has won Sony Ericsson WTA tournaments.
Little Feet, Big Feats7
Henin is ranked No.1 in the world and is the shortest player in the top 20. Overcoming her small size is something she takes pride in.“There were people who didn’t believe in me because I was little and fragile8,” she says. “But I worked very hard to build up my physical strength. I am quick on my feet and hustle9 to get every ball.”
There’s more to Henin’s game than just hustle. She has a great understanding of all the angles and dimensions of the court. She also has arguably10 the best shot in the game: a one-handed backhand11.“It is remarkable how much pace she gets on it, and on all of her shots, considering her size,” says tennis legend John McEnroe.
Henin had a very aggressive12 all-court playing style and could hit all the fundamental shots to an extremely high level of technical proficiency. Henin played with a rare combination of power and finesse that allowed success on all surfaces. Consequently, Henin’s playing style was one of the most admired in tennis: McEnroe once described Henin’s tennis as“Federertennis”, frequently describing Henin as “the Roger Federer of women’s tennis”.
Henin’s single-handed backhand, which was by this time rare in both men’s and women’s tennis, was one of the most powerful and accurate in the game. Henin could hit both “flat13”, topspin14 and slice15 variation off this wing and could strike winners from any part of the court. Her backhand could also be disguised16, surprising her opponents with drop shots17. Her slice backhand was one of the best in the world. However, Henin’s forehand was generally regarded as her most dangerous weapon.
Despite her relatively small size, Henin had an extremely powerful serve, which has been measured at a top speed of 200 km/h. Henin’s serve frequently featured in the top 10 of the Women’s Serve Speed Leaders list.
Henin’s footwork, balance, and court coverage were exceptional—most notably on clay—and she was adept at changing from a defensive style to an aggressive one.
Henin announced her retirement from professional tennis on May 14, 2008. Her announcement was a surprise because Henin was still ranked World No. 1 and was considered one of the favorites for the 2008 French Open, where she would have been the 3-time defending champion. She said she felt no sadness about her retirement because she believed it was a release from a game she had focused on for twenty years. She also said that in the future, she will be concentrating on charity18 and her tennis school.
1. tournament n. 比赛，锦标赛
2. dominant adj. 突出的，占优势的
3. look up （情况等）好转
4. diagnose v. 诊断
5. drain v. 耗尽
6. sit out 不参加，置身事外
7. feat n. 伟业，功绩
8. fragile adj. 不强健的，弱的
9. hustle v. 匆忙
10. arguably adv. 可论证地
11. backhand n. 反手抽击的技术
12. aggressive adj. 进攻的
13. flat n. 平击。一种自旋度极低的击球方式。
14. topspin n. 上旋球
15. slice n. 切削球。（回球）用下旋方式击球；（发球）带侧旋的发球
16. disguise v. 假装，伪装
17. drop shot 使球过网后急落的打法
18. charity n. 慈善