Friday, July 1, 2011

An old detailed touching article of Justine

I cried over this old article...ok, it wasn't as touching as the one she had written in book for sure but this article simply sort of summarized her difficult past and it brought a sad feeling for me, I can't help but feel sorry for Justine that many ppl don't seem to realize that she's just an ordinary simple humble gal, and the real part of her, esp those blind haters...their hearts must be damn ugly and black...Justine, I wish you all the best~!

The article link is here:

November 4, 2007
The real deal

Justine Henin is the world No 1, but says her greatest triumph 

this year has been healing a family rift

The flip side, if there is a flip side, of an evening spent at a Japanese restaurant in Miami Beach spooning delicate parcels of eel sushi into Anna Kournikova’s mouth, is that you find yourself over the next five years, gazing at the stars of women’s tennis – the Mauresmos and Clijsters and Sharapovas and Williamses – wondering: “Could it ever be that good again?”
And then along comes Justine Henin.
The 25-year-old Belgian is not, at first sight, as obviously alluring as the Russian. She doesn’t have a body crafted for magazine covers like Anna; she doesn’t laugh like Anna, or dress like Anna, or flirt like Anna, but she leaves you glowing with the same kind of buzz and pondering a question you hadn’t considered of Anna . . .
Is Justine Henin the most brilliant and interesting woman in sport?
We meet on a wet and windy evening at the Columbus Hotel in Monaco. After a somewhat shaky start, when I try to engage her with some frivolous ditties that Anna found hilarious (Warning! Henin did not become the world’s finest tennis player by majoring in frivolity!) we have moved quickly on to the subject of her rather peculiar image.
“This is from the New York Times in September 2004,” I announce. “ ‘In the fashion draw, Henin-Hardenne, as always, conservatively clothed in her white cap with ponytail extension, white skirt with blue bars and blue skirt with white stripes, is decidedly unseeded’.”
“Yeah, I hate to play someone that I’m not,” she says with a smile, “and people can criticise that, or love me or hate me for it, but I’m not going to change. I am a very intense person and I find it tough to spend time with people my own age; not a lot of people are mature at 25; I love being with people who are older than me. All of my best friends are much older than me – they’re 40 or 45.”
“Really?” I interject. “What is it that attracts you to older people?”
“I don’t know . . . I love the maturity. I love people who have lived and already built a lot of things. It gives me an example and a sense of security. I like that I can call on them at any time and they are there for me – especially in the last few months, when they gave me so much support at a tough time in my life.”
“Okay, let’s stay with the cuttings,” I suggest. “This is from The Guardian in June 2006: ‘The image Henin projects is of a serious, intense young woman with all the warmth of a frozen bag of peas’.”
“Yeah, I suffered a lot with that,” she acknowledges with a smile. “I was winning Grand Slams, but my image was pretty bad, and I was responsible for that. I’m not the kind of person who smiles when they don’t want to smile; I am intense; I’m real; if I look happy, it’s because I am happy – and I don’t have to look happy all the time, but I didn’t help myself. I was cold to people; I was distant; I was mad that people did not understand what had happened in my life. My friends know me as a warm and generous person, but I found it hard to open up and say, ‘This is me. This is the real Justine’.”
But who was the real Justine? The problem was, she wasn’t really sure. “People were telling me about these things they were writing and I’d ask myself, ‘Am I happy? Is it true? What’s happened to me?’ It took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t myself any more.”
The penny dropped in the semi-final of the US Open in September. “I remember watching this replay of me winning a point,” she explains, “a drop-shot volley at one-love-deuce in the second set against Venus [Williams]. It was an amazing shot, but the thing that struck me was the expression on my face, a look of passion and surprise. ‘Wow! How did you do that?’ And it felt like I was a little girl enjoying her tennis again.”
A little girl she hardly recognised.
THE LITTLE girl . . . there she goes, look, jogging back to the centre circle after scoring for the local soccer team. The goalkeeper is being consoled – it’s the eighth time he has plucked the ball from the net and he is distraught. “Don’t cry, Michel,” his parents insist, “it doesn’t really matter.”
“YES, BUT IT’S A GIRL!” he bawls.
A week later, a television crew is dispatched to Rochefort to seek out the prodigy, and she grants her first interview. The image she projects is of a driven, intense young kid who knows exactly what she wants. “I like football,” she explains, “but my real passion is tennis. I’m going to be a professional tennis player.”
Justine Henin is eight years old. Rochefort is a small Belgian town in the French-speaking Ardennes, where her father, Jose, manages the post office and her mother, Francoise, teaches at the local secondary school. Her brothers, David and Thomas, are nine and seven years older. She has a younger sister, Sarah. The tennis courts are a short walk from home and are soon a place for battling with her brothers. They’re bigger and stronger, but she rarely gets disheartened. Start as you mean to go on.
In 1992 she wins a 10-and-under tournament in Brussels. The prize is VIP tickets to the final of the French Open. She travels to Paris with Francoise and is captivated by the battle between her idol, Steffi Graf, and Monica Seles. “One day, Mum, I will play here and win,” “Ju-Ju” announces. But two years later her dreams are tarnished by shadow.
She lies in bed late at night, listening to her parents’ voices for clues and can tell from the tone that something is wrong. Her mother is ill, she is sure of it, but when she asks a few days later, her mother gives her daughter a hug, fixes her without blinking and assures her that she will be fine.
The word cancer is never mentioned. And Ju-Ju believes her. She believes right up until the day before her mother dies, when her ashen-faced father finally concedes that she won’t be with them for much longer.
“I’ll never forget it,” Henin recalls. “He said, ‘Your mum is going to be reunited with your sister [the family had lost a daughter, Florence, in a drink-driving accident before Justine was born] in the sky’. I couldn’t believe it; I thought he was going to say, ‘Your mum is going back to the hospital’ or ‘Your mum is going to go somewhere’. I knew it, but I didn’t want to accept it, and a day later she was gone. And three days later I was back in school – I wanted to be back in my normal life as soon as possible.
“I think a lot about her now and what it must have been like for her. I hate to think about death; I’m scared to die and can’t imagine how tough that must have been for her, but I’m sure she didn’t think of that, she just thought about her kids and what was going to become of us. My father wasn’t – and I don’t mean this in a cruel way – strong enough to deal with it. I think a lot of men would struggle. I think that a mother is better prepared and stronger in that situation.
“I was 12 years old; my sister was eight; my brothers were 19 and 21. I wouldn’t say it’s easier at that age, but they were almost adults. I’m sure that my mum must have worried about that; she would have been scared that the family would . . . well, do what we did, actually. We stopped being a family.”
TWO YEARS pass. The tennis continues. She enrols at the academy in Mons and begins working with a brilliant Argentine coach called Carlos Rodriguez. Her father watches every shot she plays. Her brother has taken a sabbatical from work to drive her to the academy each day. The scars from Francoise’s death are still raw, but the tennis is soothing the pain.
In 1997, at the age of 15, she wins the junior singles title at the French Open. But Rodriguez is concerned about the baggage. She seems so lost at times and so angry, and her father’s support is bordering on the oppressive. Something has to give.
A year later she meets and falls in love with Pierre-Yves Hardenne. Her father does not take kindly to the relationship and months of heated argument ensue. In 2000, just before her 18th birthday, she leaves home and begins a new life with Hardenne, in a small flat above a butcher’s shop in the village of Marloie.
A year later, just her coach and her fiancé are watching from the stands when she reaches her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon. There are no wedding invitations for her siblings, or walk up the aisle for her father on the day she becomes Justine Henin-Hardenne.
“My father has many qualities,” she explains, “but he was too involved in my tennis career, so I left home and we didn’t talk – things got out of proportion. Pierre-Yves wasn’t close to my family, but he never told me to leave them, and Carlos stayed away from those decisions, but I have no regrets. Okay, so I didn’t know I wouldn’t see my family for seven years, but that’s what happened because we were too proud, perhaps, or weren’t open enough at the time. There was wrong on both sides, and I missed them, I really did.”
Her tennis seems to blossom in the conflict. In 2003 she captures her first French Open and tops the world rankings, admired but not loved. There is a joylessness about her that we can’t quite fathom; a ruthlessness about this rift with her family that we can’t embrace. Every profile is badged with the same headline: “The Lonely Life of Justine Henin-Hardenne.”
Was she lonely? Did it matter? Was winning enough?
“Every time I won, there was something missing,” she says. “I’d see these other players, sharing the good moments with their families, and suffer a little bit. I missed my mum at moments like that. I knew that if I’d had my mum, I’d still have my family, so that was hard. I had a good friend in Carlos, and my husband was there, but your family is your blood and you never forget your blood.”
Her sister calls in 2004. They meet and try to build a bridge, but it doesn’t work. “It was difficult for both of us,” Henin says. “She was a teenager who needed her sister, but I wasn’t ready to give her more. The fact that she is very close to my father complicated things. It should have been everybody or nobody; it was a mistake to try to be close to her but not to the rest of the family.”
It’s business as usual on court. The winning continues through to the end of 2006: three French Opens, one Australian Open, one US Open, two Wimbledon finals. She is heralded as the female version of Roger Federer, earns millions in prize-money and endorsements and has replaced Kim Clijsters as Belgium’s No 1 sports star. But her relationship with Pierre-Yves does not bear the strain.
In January 2007 she withdraws from the Australian Open and their divorce is announced. She is winning again by March, but has written off the season as a year of transition. She calls Sarah again and they agree to meet for dinner when she returns from the Laureus Awards in April. On the morning after the awards, she wakes up in Barcelona and is shaken by a text from Sarah. Their elder brother, David, has had a car accident and is seriously hurt.
She travels home to Belgium and spends the night tossing and turning, haunted by the family ghosts. She calls Sarah next morning and they travel to the hospital in Liege – the same hospital where her mother was treated for cancer – and surprise her brother. “He was conscious when I arrived and Thomas was sitting by his bed,” she recalls. “It was the first time I had seen them for seven years and we all just started crying.”
Her father isn’t present, but she dines with Sarah that night and asks her to make a call. Two days later, they meet for lunch. “For a few years I was scared to see my daddy again. Scared about what I would feel, but that day when I was driving to see him, I was just so happy. He had changed a lot, had put on weight, but we were both so happy. After two minutes it was as if we had been together the day before.
“I don’t think I’m ready yet to have him watch me at a tournament – that would be very emotional – and I think he understands. He was always involved in my career, but he has to understand that I don’t need him as a coach; I want to be his daughter; I need him as a dad.”
The telling of her story is almost complete. She takes a sip of apple juice and radiates contentment, pleased that she can finally draw the curtain on the real Justine. A season that started in the doldrums has ended as the best of her career, with victories in the French and US Open. She is playing with the spark of the little girl again and loving every moment. “What if your mother hadn’t died?” I ask. “How good would Justine Henin have been?”
“You know,” she says, smiling, “I was talking to my friends about that the other day: what would my life be now if she hadn’t died? Would I be the same player? I don’t know. There are things I probably did that I would never have done with her at my side . . . I don’t think I’d have won as many titles... And I would give them all back to have her with me.
“I’d be a good tennis player, but would I be that champion with that personality? No, I’m not quite sure. I never wanted to take any revenge on life. Life is beautiful; life has brought me good things and I would love to be able to share them with my mum, but she is gone and she will never be back, but she lives inside me and I want to live my life the best I can, so she can be proud.”

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