Friday, January 29, 2010

Planet Serena Vs. Planet Henin

They are orbited by many aspiring champions, these two. But they are not equalled by many - maybe none - in their era. They are each giant entities unto themselves, relentlessly searching for and creating their own mythical tennis lore. They are each icons. Serena and Justine. One known for power and moxie, the other for finesse and intensity.

They are so different in so many ways, yet so alike in the one. Fittingly it is the one similar element in both of them - their desire for greatness - that draws them together. This desire puts them perpetually on a collision course. Each with a burning fire in their belly that drives them to this frantic and unyielding quest for glory. At first glance so different, they are elementally the same.

They are mercurial and they are cool calculators of the intangibles. They are hell-bent to win and shamelessly pursue the means to do so. They think like winners, therefore they are winners. They want never to lose, therefore they rarely do.

While the Azarenka's, Petrova's, and Kuznetsova's of the world - the orbiters of these two fiery planets, so to speak - are condemned to perpetual orbit, Serena Williams and Justine Henin are readying to meet in THE DREAM FINAL this evening at Rod Laver Arena. This one, my friends, will not be for the squeamish.

There are 18 Grand-Slam finals collectively between Serena Williams and Justine Henin, but today will mark the first time they have ever met in the final of a Slam.

Serena Williams- She of 11 Grand-Slam singles titles - stubbornly plowing through the doubles with her sister, wearing so much wrapping on her legs that she looks like a mummy.

Justine Henin - She of 7 Grand-Slams and 117 weeks at No. 1 - as intense as ever, but more immune to the pressure, thanks to all the soul-searching.

As tempting as it is to go back and analyse their 13 head-to-head meetings, it's really not necessary. It's plain to see that this final is about the here and now. In the future when we go back and delve into their storied pasts, today might very well be the day we point to and say "this is where it all turned for her."

Who will be her?

This one is in a class all by itself. It'll be their first Grand-Slam final and that fact immediately makes it their biggest match.

All these years it has been building to this sure-to-be knock-down drag-out climax. Two massive planets - each fixated on destruction of all threats to their own security - aiming straight towards one another. As good as each woman is at separating the winning and losing from their self image, whoever loses this one is going to feel some sting.

We didn't know it then, but ever since their first meeting, at the 2001 U.S. Open's 4th round, this is where this rivalry has been heading.

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