Saturday, February 26, 2011
Justine Henin admits she cheated Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters.
"Question,'' Williams wrote on her Twitter account. "I keep hearing about admittance to someone cheating me & lying about it after at the French open? Did she confess finally?''
Well that "someone'' Williams could not bring herself to say was Henin. And if Williams were truly interested in finding out if Henin had fessed up to what happened at the 2003 French Open, the infamous Hand Incident, then Williams could have just Googled it. Instead, she wrote it in a question with very pointed words to her two million Twitter followers, including media members who would make those words even more public.
So this was about sending a message. For some reason, Henin did talk about it, and other controversial moments in her career, in a TV interview in Belgium. She is acknowledging wrongdoing in several things, possibly for closure, while taking a slow exit from the stage since retiring last month.
"It's true,'' Henin said about the Hand Incident Wednesday, "that is not my best memory.''
I'll get into the specifics in a minute. But this is an amazing example of how a small, somewhat insignificant moment can escalate over the years, blow up into hard feelings and rivalry and probably even hatred. It all shows in the fact that both of them still feel the need to talk about it now.
In Henin's case, I assume it has been eating at her. I wouldn't say she cheated exactly, to use Williams' word, but what she did was provide a shocking example of terrible sportsmanship. It would define her in several ways for the rest of her career.
In Williams' case, I think she has let the discussion build up and re-shape the facts in her head. Henin was the one in the wrong that day, but somehow, that moment has grown over the year's into something that cost Williams a major championship.
Where she really was robbed was the 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinals against Jennifer Capriati. That match was one terrible call after another at crucial moments. Maybe she has some peace over that one because U.S. Open officials apologized publicly to her. And that match is seen as leading to the use of electronic line calling.
Henin had never acknowledged doing anything wrong to Williams, and sometimes you just want to hear someone admit it.
Those two moments surely added to her distrust regarding the 2009 U.S. Open, when she "foot-faulted" and then went into an f-bomb laced, threatening tirade against the line judge who called it. The buzz and talk about that has swirled in Williams' head, too, changing truth. I believe she did not foot fault that day, but I wasn't there to judge.
You can see the hand incident at about 3:50, Justine was very much at fault.
"Perhaps I should have said that I raised my hand,'' Henin said this week, "even though, in honesty, I still think that it didn't change the course of the match.''
Henin seemed to say that the Williams sisters played games of intimidation, and that she was using the incident at the time to stand tall against Serena and show that she couldn't be pushed around.
Last year, Serena played Jelena Jankovic, and was so concerned that Jankovic might think she was doing something unsportsmanlike – she was not -- that when they shook hands at the net afterward, she said, "Don't think I would do that. I'm not Justine.''
Oh, and if coming clean on the hand incident wasn’t enough, Henin admits now that she cheated on a 2004 call in the Australian Open finals against Kim Clijsters. She’s not exactly the most sportsmanlike person around, and she drops in my book for that reason.