Sunday, May 11, 2008

Glorious Justine

The elegance and grace in a sportsperson’s execution is what has always drawn me towards them. Whilst players possessing brute power and sheer grit are highly commendable for their values, they never seem quite capable of igniting the same interest in me. I had mentioned in an earlier post that the pleasure generated by an Azhar flick or a Martyn cover drive is indescribable. The same I believe, is the case with a wonderfully struck through ball by Scholes or Fabregas, a dribble by Giggs, Ronaldo, Messi or Henry leaving the defenders with twisted blood, a graceful chip shot by Ernie Els or Sergio Garcia, a scorching on the limit lap by Kimi Raikkonen, a languid yet at the same time imperious Stefan Edberg half volley and a cheeky nutmeg by Laurent Blanc within his own half. There are few sights in world sport better than the ones I have just mentioned. Justine Henin’s single-handed backhand is one of them.

One look at that backhand and I fell in love with it. Whilst it can be equally lauded for its power and efficiency, it’s the elegance and the gracefulness of it that sets it apart amongst shots played by contemporaries. I saw Henin play for the first time in the 2001 French Open where she showcased her regal backhand to the whole world. Very rarely can you describe such an energetic and forcefully struck stroke as stylish, but Henin’s backhand is after all exceptional. John McEnroe once said that she is in possession of the best one-handed backhand in the women’s or men’s game. I would go one step further and say that she has the best backhand, one-handed or double-handed in the women’s or men’s game.

In this day and age where most players seem to prefer the double-handed backhand for the power that can be generated from such a stroke, Henin has displayed wonderful versatility through her one-handed backhand. There is nothing that she cannot do with it. Apart from producing incredible power and finding the most acute angles from the baseline, she has an effective slice which she uses to surprise opponents and she is also capable of hitting the backhand top spin lob, one of the toughest shots in the game with great aplomb. To me there is only one sight in world sport more beautiful in its execution than Henin’s backhand and that is the Cruyff turn by the man himself. Watching videos of Johan Cruyff has an effect that is quite simply spectacular and awe-inspiring. Henin’s backhand creates a similar kind of effect and I would go many a mile just to watch her play one of those splendid backhands.


Sroyon said...

I'm a fan too. Poetry, no? But along with the Henin backhand and the Cryuff turn, I'd throw in the sight of Jonty Rhodes diving full length at backward point.

A Couch-side View said...

I agree that Jonty Rhodes diving full length is quite spectacular and wonderful to watch, but I wouldn't quite put it up there with the other ones I have mentioned in the post.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

this is brilliant. i thought no one else in the world loved justine, and i saw your post. thanks.

i'd probably add roger federer pirouetting away to glory in his earlier days, but he's breaking my heart this year.

A Couch-side View said...

I just read that Henin has announced her retirement from the sport with immediate effect. Shocking to say the very least. Its apparently something that has been on her mind for a while now. I am deeply disappointed. Tennis has lost a wonderful artist.

A Couch-side View said...

@ doubletake doublethink- I am not quite as a big fan of Federer though. I am a die hard Safin fan. And I also like the fella Djokovic whom I believe is a phenomenal talent.