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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Sep 23, 2009

9/23/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Sep 23, 2009

Welcome back to Point Counterpoint, with James LaRosa and James LaRosa. Today's topic, former No 1 Justine Henin's return to professional tennis. Let's begin.

James: (fetal position) Nooooooooooo!

James: Okay I'll start. From the day, nay instant, Justine Henin retired, the WTA tour has been in a cataclysmic downward spiral. Without the 7-time Grand Slam champ as a rudder, the ship has been careening in a sea of double faults and pole position hot potato. The Belgian's return restores the order and respect the tour, and fans of the tour, have been so sorely lacking.

James: Respect? I'm sorry, we are talking about the same woman who snuck a little "Talk to the Hand" to Serena at the French in '03, right? Who in Melbourne in '06 quit four games from defeat, Kanye West-ing Amelie Mauresmo's long-awaited Grand Slam Moment of Glory?

James: Not this again.

James: Honestly though, this is who we're rolling out the red carpet for? Would we even have on-court coaching if it weren't for her little tete-a-tetes with coach Carlos?

James: You're obviously having a very personal immediate reaction to this news. Think bigger picture. Justine Henin may have her competitive faults (and she wouldn't be alone in that department, roll the tape from a certain US Open '09 semifinal), but on court she did something the women today are refusing to do: play to win. And in a style that is so different from all the other bashers on court today. That backhand alone! Variety truly is the spice of life.

I love you, I love you not

James: There was no variety when Henin played. She won everything. In '07 she hoarded 10 titles, the thieving little--

James: And isn't that the real problem? Fear from fans of other players, that their faves are all going to be shut out?

James: Fear? Try boredom. No one wanted to see Roger Federer win every men's title in '07 either.

James: I can assure you Justine's fans weren't bored. Yup, this is fear, plain and simple. And with good reason. Is there anyone on earth who thinks Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic or Jelena Jankovic would've been No 1 with Justine Henin in the picture? Or that Elena Dementieva would've won that gold? Or that Serena Williams would've run the table at nearly every Grand Slam since?

James: Justine can also turn water into wine and solve the health care crisis.

James: I'm not saying she would've been No 1 this whole time and would've won the gold, etc., I'm saying she was one nasty roadblock they were all spared. Remember, Serena kept drawing Henin every quarter, and that was as far as the No 2 would get? But the party's over. And now Serena has a lot more to outrun than Mother Nature in her new Tampax ads.

James: If it's such a done deal, I officially announce my retirement from the WTA 2010 season.

James: You might want to stick around. Like I said, Justine will have that fear factor, but it won't be 2007 all over again. This is the kinder, gentler Justine. She retired to begin her life "as a woman." Which basically entailed singing on Belgian reality TV. (And if you haven't seen it, treat yourself to some youtube. STAT.) She's cuddly now. And even if she did come back in full force, it was '07 where she crumpled like a rag doll on the grass of Wimbledon (which, incidentally, is her main stated reason for returning – she wants that damn dish). Add to that the pressure of following up BFF Kim Clijsters' insta-success and this has all the makings of some high-quality drama.

James: So this could be a nosedive of epic proportions.

James: Well, epic is a big word…

James: Or not big enough. All we've been hearing about is Justine this and Justine that for the past year and a half. Ever since she said no mas she's been canonized as some sort of tennis demigod. Now she's back walking the earth. And she's more vulnerable than ever. To herself, to those players she spanked ruthlessly all those years. It's going to be payback time.

James: That does sound rather epic.

James: It gives a moving target to those players who have lost their way. The Safinas, the Ivanovics. The Mauresmos. And get Serena to wake up to tennis outside the Slams. This could be like the 300 all over again. But bloodier.

James: Well, let's not get carried away by expectations here, she's just a woman…

James: You're absolutely right, Justine Henin's return is going to be a spectacle of Biblical proportions! Our savior has returned!

James: No mas! No mas!

We're out of time. Next week's hot button issue, Mother Nature. Why is she up in everybody's business? Thanks for joining us.--

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The Henin debate rages on Twitter. Follow both of me at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.