Standing atop the battered earth of Roland Garros' main court, another trophy in her hand, Justine Henin realized that this title was so much sweeter than the rest.
Henin, the world's No. 1 player, won her fourth French Open title, her third in a row. Again, she won in straight sets, this time against Serbia's Ana Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-2. But never before have the postmatch moments unfolded the way they did on Saturday.
When Henin looked into the crowd, she saw more than just her coach, Carlos Rodriguez, and his family. For the first time in seven years, her brothers and sister were there, smiling at her.
"I looked at them, and just looking at each other, we understood a lot of things," Henin said after her match, adding that this victory was more emotional than the others because she could finally share it with her family.
Henin, who turned 25 last week, had been estranged from her family since 1999. For reasons they cannot explain, she drifted further and further apart from them as her tennis career progressed. But two months ago, after so many years apart, she got in touch with them.
Henin, an extremely private person, did not want to expound on that reconciliation with her father, Jose, her brothers David and Thomas, and her sister, Sarah. But David Henin, at 34 the oldest sibling, told the story.
In April, he had a serious car accident and was in a coma for two days. After hearing the news through Sarah, Henin traveled to Belgium to be by his side. It caused an avalanche of pent-up emotions, and the Henins realized that they needed to rebuild the family bond.
"It was something horrible that turned into something good," said David Henin, a tavern owner, who had not spoken to his sister in seven years.
Since then, there have been daily phone calls and frequent visits between Henin and her family. Their father did not come to Roland Garros because it was too emotional, Henin's brothers said.
Still, Henin knew her father was with her on Saturday, watching the match on television in Belgium. She said she felt her mother, who died of cancer when Henin was 12, watching and protecting her, too. When addressing the crowd, Henin dedicated the victory to the members of her family and said that she had missed them.
"It's been a huge step in my life in the last few months," she said later. "I was glad I could give them this victory because everyone suffered a lot from the situation in the last few years. And today, finally, we are united in this joy, and we can share this moment."
Coming into the French Open, Henin had been dealing with a difficult year. She had skipped the Australian Open after separating from her husband. Then, in a swing of emotions, she regained contact with her family. She thought that might hinder her performance. But it seemed only to improve it.
Since the beginning of the year, Rodriguez said he had seen a drastic change in Henin. She was no longer the loner on the tour.
Over the two weeks of the French Open, she has gone to dinner with friends, shopped and spent time with her family.
After the final, Henin hugged her brothers and cradled her six-week-old niece. It was the perfect ending to a perfect two weeks.
"I've been a little bit surprised, because it's been hard for me, everything I lived in the last few months, ups and downs, good things, bad things," she said. "And then I realized that it's life. Life is ups and downs, and you have to accept it."
SWEEP THE LEG: Poirier, determined to best McGregor, after losing to him in 2014, used low calf kicks to throw ‘Notorious’ off his stand-up game, before dropping him American underdog Dustin Poirier yesterday shook up the world of mixed martial arts, beating up the legs of Irish superstar Conor McGregor before knocking him out at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. “I’m happy, but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier said, after the referee stepped in after 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the second round to save McGregor from further damage, after he was dropped by a fierce combination of punches. The 32-year-old Poirier was ranked second in the flyweight division going into the fight, but still rated a heavy underdog by bookmakers to beat his fourth-ranked opponent,
Badminton’s world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday was handed a tough draw at Thailand’s World Tour Finals, as she was bracketed with home favorite Ratchanok Intanon and Indian star P.V. Sindhu. Tai, former world champion Ratchanok and Olympic silver-medalist Sindhu were grouped with Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong in Group B for the round-robin stage of the biosecure tournament in Bangkok. Tai faces Sindhu today. The delayed season finale from last year is the third behind-closed-doors event in three weeks in the Thai capital as badminton resumes after months of near-inactivity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Spanish top seed Carolina Marin, seeking a hat-trick of wins in Bangkok,
HOLDING STEADY: Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying pushed past Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung to advance to a quarter-finals match against world No. 10 Michelle Li Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen and Wang Tzu-wei yesterday defeated their respective opponents in the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open, setting them up to face each other today in the quarter-finals. In an early match, world No. 12 Wang took 45 minutes to defeat Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka-long 21-13, 21-11. Last week, the world No. 8 ousted Wang from the Yonex tournament before defeating Chou in the semi-finals. Chou, world No. 2, defeated France’s Brice Leverdez in 48 minutes 21-19, 21-16. In other men’s singles matches, Indonesia’s fifth seed Anthony Ginting suffered an unexpected defeat to Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk-yiu, who moved into
MARIN REMATCH: Tai Tzu-ying saved six game points in her semi-final against Ratchanok Intanon, who went into the match with a superior head-to-head record Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying reached the final of badminton’s Thailand Open yesterday with a three-set win over Ratchanok Intanon, setting up a rematch against Carolina Marin. Tai won 12-21, 21-12, 23-21 in 59 minutes to set up her second final against Marin in two weeks, while Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the final in the men’s doubles. However, Chou Tien-chen was eliminated in the semi-finals of the men’s singles. Tai saved six game points in the win against her Thai opponent Intanon, who went into the match with a superior head-to-head record against the Taiwanese world No. 1. Tai’s best streak was a