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."
For Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin, there were no chances left: Either beat the world’s top-ranked men’s doubles badminton team from Indonesia for the first time or see their Olympic hopes dashed in the preliminary round. The world No. 3 Taiwanese duo answered the challenge, edging past Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in their final Group A match 21-18, 15-21, 21-17 to qualify for the final eight knockout round. “We finally made it,” Lee wrote on Facebook after beating the Indonesian duo. However, he said that the competition still had a long way to go. “We’re happy not only because
INTO THE SEMIS: Top seed Tai Tzu-ying hit two stunning backhands in quick succession while on the floor in her quarter-final, prompting disbelieving gasps and cheers Taiwanese badminton stars Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin yesterday advanced to the gold medal match of the men’s doubles, while Taiwanese top seed Tai Tzu-ying got off to a rough start in a nail-biting women’s singles quarter-final against Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, but rallied with a series of flash backhand smashes. Lee and Wang beat Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-11, 21-10 in their men’s doubles semi-final to set up a shot at the gold medal against China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, who had a 24-22, 21-13 win over Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik. Tai rallied from a game
‘BOSS CHARACTER’: Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin said they had ‘crawled out of hell’ and have nothing to lose in a match against the world’s No. 2 pairing Badminton duo Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin made history in Tokyo yesterday by becoming the first Taiwanese shuttlers to advance to an Olympics semi-final after they edged their Japanese rivals in the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles. The world No. 3 Taiwanese duo defeated Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe 21-16, 21-19 in 44 minutes at the Musashino Forest Plaza. By reaching the final four, the pair have recorded Taiwan’s best ever showing in Olympic badminton, surpassing a quarter-finals finish by Lee Sheng-mu and Fang Chieh-min in the men’s doubles at the London Games in 2012. After clinching the hard-earned victory, Lee dropped to
Taiwanese badminton player Tai Tzu-ying yesterday tried to coast through her second group match at the Olympic Games, but got a bit of a scare against a Vietnamese ranked 49th in the world before righting the ship and prevailing. World No. 1 Tai defeated Nguyen Thuy Linh 21-16, 21-11 in her second match in Group P, moving her one win away from a spot in the women’s singles quarter-finals. Playing somewhat nonchalantly at the start of the match, Tai could not shake off the consistent Vietnamese, making several unforced errors. Down 16-14 and in danger of letting the first game get away, Tai