Saturday, January 28, 2006

Justine Distraught by Retirement - 2006-01-28

Wow. I never thought The womens final was like this. Please just read the story taken of the Australian Open Site.

(I will add some photos later).

Justine Distraught by Retirement
by Amanda Buivids
Saturday, 28 January, 2006

It all happened rather suddenly, really.

Two points into her service game and then there was a tentative, long march to the chair umpire and … it was over. Just there and then.

The final of the women's singles at Australian Open 2006 was a set and two-and-a-half games old when Justine Henin-Hardenne, renowned for her fighting qualities, told umpire Alison Lang she could no longer continue.

She retired while trailing 4-6 0-2.

Her stunning capitulation took everyone by surprise, most of all Amelie Mauresmo, who after shaking hands with Henin-Hardenne and expressing her condolences, walked back to her chair realising the title was hers.

As Mauresmo saluted the warm and sympathetic Rod Laver Arena crowd, and wiped tears of joy from her smiling, joyous face, Henin-Hardenne sat, slumped in her court-side chair, head buried in a towel trying to come to terms with the enormity of her decision and its repercussions.

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup was not the only thing at stake at that very moment, there was also her pride.

Such was her overwhelming sense of grief, it was the newly-anointed champion who had to stand up, walk the six metres and sit next to Henin-Hardenne, who was speechless and reduced to merely peeping through the peak of her cap and a sweaty towel.

It was the pure sense of disappointment that shuddered through her small, but muscular frame.

"It's one of the biggest (disappointments) because I don't know what is harder; to lose even when you're playing well and just you lose, or just when you have to retire like that," a distraught Henin-Hardenne said after the match.

"I think it's very disappointing because I was playing so well, and I had a lot of good chances to win here. When you lose that like this, it's pretty hard."

The No.8 seed said she had been feeling sick in the stomach for a couple of days. She said she had a problem shoulder and was prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets for the injury.

She admitted, though, that she had doubled her intake of the tablets to cope with the injury, which may have inadvertently caused her tummy troubles.

"It's been a few days I wasn't feeling well. My stomach was very upset. And then last night, I didn't sleep a lot because it got worse and worse," she explained. "Two weeks now, I had to take anti-inflammatories for my shoulder, and that killed me a little bit."

"But I had to for my shoulder. Now I got on my stomach, and then I had no legs today. I couldn't move. When the stomach is so upset and so inflamed, you know, you just don't have any energy."

"And I felt it when I woke up, but I tried. I knew at the beginning of the match I couldn't win it. I really tried to stay in the match, but there was no chance for me. If I would have keep playing and continue, maybe I would injure something else, so that was the best decision, even if it was very, very hard for me."

From the stands, the only minor indication that something was up with the petite Belgian, was the scoreline.

We had not seen her as overwhelmed in a final before. She was out-played and out-muscled in the opening set, suffering two breaks of serve to drop it in 33 minutes.

Henin-Hardenne called for the trainer during the second game of the second set after she managed to level at deuce on Mauresmo's serve.

The tyros had just completed a 33-shot rally - the best display of shot-making in the 52-minute contest - but obviously inflicted diabolical distress on the right-hander, who lost the following two points and the game.

After a three-minute injury time-out, the two combatants resumed with the calm Frenchwoman winning the two points, and Henin-Hardenne then walked towards the net to tell her opponent and the umpire that she was beaten and broken.

"I was dead, yeah … just after that point I was feeling like short of breath and no legs, no power, nothing," she said, referring to her request for medical assistance at the change-of- ends.

"I say, I am going to ask the doctor what we can do. But there's nothing we can do at that point when you're feeling like that. So I think that was really the best decision for myself."

World No.3 Mauresmo played magnificently. She controlled the contest from the start when she won her service to 15, and then immediately broke Henin-Hardenne before doing so again in the fourth game.

Her looping forehands and well-positioned serve troubled Henin-Hardenne, despite her physical frailties.

For the vanquished Henin-Hardenne, the match as well as the post-final media conference reduced her to tears.

The stress, the questioning, the criticisms had become overwhelming and too much of a burden to bare.

However, what was tougher for her was the tough decision to take her position on Centre Court when she knew that she was not 100 per cent healthy.

"Well, it's always my decision, you know, my choice. I know what was the problem, and I decided to walk on court because I'm professional, I want to try," she said. "When you see it's not working, it's the only way to go out."

"I mean, you know, it's hard when you're on the court and so much in pain. I think it's very easy to say that here in press conference. But when you're on the court and you suffer a lot and you feel like you don't have anything to give, it's pretty hard to stay on the court. I have no regrets about the decision I took."

Extending her professionalism, she congratulated Mauresmo, the 26-year-old who has finally broken through for her first Grand Slam crown in 32 attempts.

"It's great for her. She was waiting for that for such a long time, and it's finally coming out, very strange way, Kim (Clijsters) and me," Henin-Hardenne said. "But I'm sure it will give her a lot of confidence. She worked very hard so she deserved that."

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