Justine Henin-Hardenne committed the most significant and flagrant act of poor sportsmanship I’ve witnessed in nearly 30 years of covering pro tennis today. I urge you to read the interview transcripts when they’re posted on the Australian Open website (I think Henin-Hardenne’s is up already) and evaluate for yourself.
All I can make of any of it, here in Melbourne, is that Justine had a bellyache, and she was being badly outplayed by an Amelie Mauresmo who was in full control of her game and emotions. So Justine decided to quit, because . . . well, because it's all about Justine, all the time.
It was a disgrace.
Justine’s interview transcript is very telling, because there’s not even a smidgen of volunteered sympathy for Mauresmo,not an ounce of compassion for the way she was robbed of the finest moment of her career - watching her match point called as she earned the first Grand Slam title. In a post a long time ago, I called H-H a “demented dwarf”; in fact, this week, a comment poster somewhere along the way chided me for having done that. I had second thoughts for a moment. Adios, second thoughts.
How’s this for a money quote from Henin-Hardenne. When asked how she would answer those who would say she should have finished the match, she replied:
There you have it. I have to think about myself right now . . .
You know, it’d be one thing if Justine had broken a leg, or even if she were so ill she fainted, or was forced to vomit (a la Pete Sampras, or Andy Murray) on court. She never even got to that that point. When I ran into Patrick McEnroe, just moments after H-H quit, he said: “She just pulled a Roberto Duran. She got sick of getting her butt kicked and said, ‘No more.'”
There’s no way around this, folks: H-H was well enough to start the match, well enough to see if she could turn the tide in the second set after being blitzed in the first, well enough to see if Mauresmo would show signs of losing her resolve, well enough to play a great 33-stroke rally before calling for the trainer shortly before she cried, "No mas!"
However, she apparently was not well enough to accept the inevitable, and allow Mauresmo the full glory and all the small satisfactions that rain down on you when you’re standing at the net, waiting to shake hands, with 15,000 people giving you a standing ovation for playing one of the most artful, purposeful, accomplished finals in recent history.
Not well enough for that . . . and I guess she was just barely, marginally, on-the-cusply well enough to realize that the last thing she wanted to do was lose a Grand Slam final to Amelie Maueresmo 6-1, 6-1.
Want more self-absorbed garbage from Justine? Here:
Yeah. Very, very, very hard for . . .me.
Kind of says it all, doesn't it?
What about the 15,000 fans and world-wide tennis audience? What about Amelie Mauresmo? What about the credibility of the game (just what tennis needs, a player who quits in the middle of a Grand Slam final because her stomach hurts!) – and the credibility of the women's game? Because if you’ve been reading the newspapers down here, you know that a lot of folks have been looking at the scores and match durations in the two singles draws and saying, “No way the women deserve equal money!” Boy, are they going to have a field day with this!
Aaaaarrrraaggghhhh! That’s all I can say.
And in a narrow way for me, the worst thing about it is that I should be writing about how gracefully and artfully Mauresmo got the Grand Slam monkey off her back. How well she acquitted herself in a final against one of the toughest competitors (ha-ha-ha!) in the game. How much Mauresmo enjoyed that amazing moment when she finally crossed the clearly defined finish line of match point, in her race to be a fully realized Grand Slam champ.
For that, I deeply resent Henin-Hardenne.
If you check the transcript of Mauresmo’s interview, you’ll see that someone asked her a long question having to do with the way she walked over and sat down with Justine right after the match, to talk. That was Mary Carillo, and the point she was making underscores a lot of what I’ve said here. Amelie didn’t entirely get Mary’s point, but it’s worth reading that exchange, because Mary was saying that Amelie has character and compassion, Justine has nothing but self-absorption.
I asked Henin-Hardenne, near the end of the presser, if she felt sorry that Amelie didn’t get to experience the moment of winning a championship at all. Her reply?
How gracious of you, Justine! Hollower words were never spoken.
I believe the ITF and/or WTA should levy an enormous fine against Justine (don’t hold your breath) and issue a general apology to the international public for putting on an event that ended this way. Sure, all the blame should be laid on Justine, but what’s that going to accomplish?
Like she said, she doesn’t care what the people think.