Monday, September 18, 2006
Addicted to the withdrawal
Justine Henin-Hardenne withdrew in the third set of the Fed Cup final yesterday in the match that gave Italy the cup. Citing knee pain, HH pulled out down 0-2 in the doubles the match which gave Italy the 3-2 win.
This injury seems pretty legitimate. HH had had knee pain earlier in the summer. Plus her back is bad and she has some other problems too.
Still the retirement raises some questions. After all this is the second high profile HH withdrawal this year. Her retirement against Amelie Mauresmo in the Australian Open final in January with a stomach ailment raised many eyebrows (my own were oddly arched for weeks).
But this one is not generating as much speculation. For some reason because we see a bandage on the knee we are more likely to assume a legitimate injury--most of the time anyway. But a stomach ache is a little more suspicious I suppose even though both injuries are not really discernible to the audience.
Again, I am not doubting HH's retirement really. But I suspect withdrawals will become very much associated with her as we move into the end of this season and the beginning of next. Remember, HH (when she was just H) used to be one of the biggest "chokers" on the tour. She was cited for not being mentally tough enough to close out matches. Now it seems she is having trouble just finishing them.
What this retirement also forces us to consider--and hopefully it forces the powers-that-be to do so as well--is the extreme schedule players are largely forced to keep. If we want Fed Cup (and Davis Cup too) to be more popular or tournaments to have and actually produce big-name players maybe the schedule should be cut back just a tad. Players must be weary by the time the US Open ends but there's still the indoor season abroad and the end of the year championships.
I myself am weary after the US Open and all I have been doing is watching the matches!