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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Henin-Hardenne's No Mas Moment

I had plans last night, so I taped the women's finals of the Australian Open tennis tournament between Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo. When I got home, I popped a bowl of popcorn and put my feet up in my favorite recliner hoping to watch a good match. I'm not a fan of either player—in fact, I don't really even like either player, but I am a fan of good tennis, so that's what I was hoping for. I was sorely disappointed.

Mauresmo steamrolled Henin-Hardenne in the first set 6-1 without doing much except keeping the ball in play. Early in the second set, Henin-Hardenne called for a trainer, because she had an upset stomach. After falling behind 2 games to 0, and 0-30, she quit, bringing back memories of a night in 1980 when Roberto Duran held up his hands and said "no mas, no mas" (no more, no more) as Sugar Ray Leonard proved to be too much for him that night.  

I imagine Duran's quitting was worse since he apparently just gave up for no other reason than he knew he was about to lose and he was tired of being hit, but for Henin-Hardenne to quit simply because she had an upset stomach—well, that's the sort of thing she'll always be remembered for.

Quitting isn't an option.

Ask Pete Sampras who was so spent and so sick (mostly because he was out of shape) during a 1996 match against Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open that he walked to the back of the court during the fifth set and puked. And somehow, he went on to win the match. Even if he hadn't, he proved that he was willing to leave it all on the court—literally.

Listen to the contrast between Sampras and Henin-Hardenne. Here's what she said after the match: "I knew at the beginning of the match I couldn't win it. I had no legs today, couldn't move. I really tried to stay in the match, but there was no chance for me. If I would have kept playing maybe I would injure something else, so that was the best decision, even if it was very, very hard for me."

She quit because she might "injure something else." Any time an athlete steps on the court, he or she might injure something—much like Kim Clijsters did during the semi-finals against Amelie Mauresmo a couple of days ago when she rolled one of her ankles and did major damage to tendons. You retire after you get hurt to the point that you literally cannot play another point. Not before. And certainly not in a championship.

Now listen to Mauresmo's comments after the match when she was asked about Henin-Hardenne's actions: "Well, I don't want to really comment on that. [But] I was ready to die on the court today."

Those are the comments of which champions are made.

Mauresmo had never won a major before. Unfortunately, Henin-Hardenne robbed her of the chance to close out the match in celebration and remarkably, in a classy move a few minutes later, Mauresmo she sat down next to Henin-Hardenne before the trophy presentation to apparently console her. To me, it seems it should have been the other way around.


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