Justine Henin has the shots to end the Grand Slam dream of Jennifer Capriati in the first women's singles semi-final on Centre Court this afternoon. Quick but graceful, strong but deft, she also possesses one of the finest backhands on the women's tour.
"She's got a really beautiful backhand," said Conchita Martinez, the 1994 champion, after Henin had given her a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing in the last eight to progress. "It is great. It is very aggressive and deep. She is a great player." Whether the 19-year-old Belgian yet has the mental strength to prevail past the Comeback Queen, however, is something even the player herself is not sure about.
"It is a different kind of game altogether playing someone like her in the semi-finals," Henin said, as she prepared for a second Grand Slam semi-final of the year. At Roland Garros last month, the 19-year-old was a set and a break ahead in her last-four tie against her compatriot and fellow teenager, Kim Clijsters, but somehow she contrived to lose.
"In the French Open it looked like I was set to win but in my head I wasn't so strong," Henin said. "It was 6-2 in the first, and then I was 4-2 ahead in the second but I still didn't go on to win that match. Maybe if I have the possibility here, I will not make the same mistake again."
Looking at Henin's form for the year, she has the potential to put up a fight today. Only twice in the nine tournaments that she has not gone on to win has she eventually bowed out in less than three sets. And in the three events she has won – on the Gold Coast, in Canberra and in Rosmalen, last month, on grass – she has conceded a total of two sets. While it is true that she has not been tested in SW19 so far by any of the game's big hitters, she did show tenacity to come from a set and 4-1 down to beat Kristie Boogert in the second round. And, significantly, she also has the respect of her opponent.
"Henin is such a good player," Capriati said after she overturned a first-set loss to beat Serena Williams and secure her own place in the last four today. "When she is on, I mean, she is really on. That is the thing I have got to be careful of. When she is in the zone, you know, it is really difficult playing against her."
Capriati, who has met Henin once before, in the German Open this year, when Henin retired injured with the score at one set apiece, will go into the match as the odds-on favourite. A win would put her one step away from the third leg of a Grand Slam. "I am looking forward to it," Capriati said. "It will be a different match. There is going to be more rallies than my quarter-final, for sure. Hopefully I will be serving well. I will really try to attack her game."
The winner will face either the reigning champion, Venus Williams, or Lindsay Davenport, the loser in last year's final. "I am definitely going to have to play very good tennis to win," Davenport said. "She beat me last year. It is tough to play on this surface. She hits the ball extremely hard and serves well."
Like the other contest it will follow, the result of the second semi-final could be decided as much in the mind as with the body. "I just think the key was that I really wanted it, I really did," Williams said when asked what gave her the edge in last year's final. "I think that was the whole key." As it could be again today, in both matches.Reuse content