Trey Bien (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday June 12, 2007 11:13AM; Updated: Tuesday June 12, 2007 11:24AM
Federer still believes he can succeed at Roland Garros, but for the moment Nadal's one rival there is Justine Henin. She matched the Spaniard by sailing through the 2007 semis without dropping a set, and then she bludgeoned Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-2 in Saturday's women's final for her third straight French Open title and fourth overall. "Queen of Clay is good," Henin said after the match when asked to choose a nickname.
That's because no one at Roland Garros faced a mental test as tough as hers. Paris is where the 10-year-old Justine promised her dying mother, Françoise, that she would play one day. In 1999 Henin would break ties with her father, José, over control of her career and cut off relations not only with him but also with her two older brothers, Thomas and David, maintaining only sporadic contact with her younger sister, Sarah.
As families go, the Henins have HBO written all over them. In January, Justine missed the Australian Open and began divorce proceedings from her husband of four years, Pierre-Yves Hardenne. Then in late March, Henin was told by her doctor that to keep tabs on the chronic asthmatic condition that nearly derailed her career in 2004, she had to see a specialist at a hospital in Liège, Belgium. Henin balked; it was the same hospital in which her mother died in 1995. Then Sarah sent a text message: David was now in that hospital, in a coma, after breaking seven ribs in a car accident. "That was a sign for me," Henin said. "It was time. It wasn't too late."
David emerged from the coma after two days. On April 2 he looked up from his hospital bed to see Justine, the girl he had watched grow up only on television, walk in. For the first time in eight years, the four siblings were together. "Within a few minutes, everyone was fine," Henin said.
Last Saturday she squared off against Ivanovic, the 19-year-old Serbian whose unassuming nature and winsome beauty led her nation's charm offensive at Roland Garros. Ivanovic didn't stand a chance. In Henin's box David, Thomas and Sarah clapped, screamed Justine's name and cried. "It's incredible to be here; we are very happy," said David after the match. "She's a different person, and we are different people now."
When Henin launched her final forehand volley for the win, she threw her racket and hands up in disbelief, then pointed two fingers at the sky, thinking of her mother. "Finally she can be proud of the player I am . . . of the person I am and of the step we took," she said. "She wanted our family unified." Later Henin drank champagne with her siblings. "For the first time in my life," she said, "I feel at peace."