Saturday, June 09, 2007


We now know the finalists for the Women's French Open tennis, which will take place at Stadium Roland Garros, early this afternoon.

It is such an appealing prospect, that even the Parisians might limit their lunch to just two courses, in order to catch the real entree of the day.

Justine Henin is the overwhelming favourite and is looking for her third straight title, something only Monica Seles (1990-92) has done since the 1930's.

Henin has won an incredible 33 sets in a row at Roland Garros and has not even been taken to a tie break in any of those, only giving up five games, in four sets.

She is very much the darling of the crowd, who love her like one of their own, coming as she does from Walloon, in the French speaking region of Belgium.

Henin has had a very complex personal life. Losing her mother at age 12 and an older sister in a car accident. The strong willed Belgian spent years in conflict with her father and lived alone from her mid teens. The pair have only recently been reconciled, following the break up of her marriage. Add to the mix, five Grand Slam titles and you will understand that "JuJu" has packed a lot into her 25 (just) years. If she were American, the TV movie would already have been made.

Given all this turmoil, probably the only place that Henin feels truely comfortable, is on the tennis court. Where she exudes calm and tranquility and the odd "fist pump" aside, rarely shows too much emotion.

Blessed with a dream of a backhand, that all time great, John McEnroe, is in awe of and a big serve that belies her diminutive stature. Henin is the complete package and it will take a superhuman effort from someone, to prise the title from her grasp.

That task has been left to Ana Ivanovic, the 19 year old Serbian and last of 127 challengers for Queen JuJu's crown.

Ivanovic is at the forefront of the Serbian invasion, a group of young players led by her, Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic, who have taken the tour(s) by storm this year and look set to challenge for titles, for many years to come.

She has had a wonderful Spring, taking a major title in Berlin and is on a roll of 12 straight wins on "red" clay.

Ivanovic breezed through her semi final in double quick time, taking just 65 minutes to defeat Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-1. The statuesque Russian was never "at the races", hitting far too many unforced errors and putting no pressure whatsoever on her young opponent. Who was making her Grand Slam final four debut and would surely have felt a little nervous, coming into the match.

It is unthinkable that Henin would ever put in such an inept performance and surely all the mental strain, which will build up over two days and more importantly, two long nights, will be on Ivanovic.

There is normally a progression to these things, with a losing final appearance, often preceding a Slam victory. They are special occasions, with a life of their own and experience is worth it's weight in gold, this is unkown territory for Ivanovic and maybe she must first, "serve her time".

The two have met just once before, two years ago on the clay in Warsaw, with Henin winning 4&5, but her opponent was just a baby then.

This looks a year too soon for Ivanovic, who is a sponsor's dream, with her attractive looks, sunny disposition and newly slimmed down figure. Her agent will be the busiest man, or woman, in Paris this weekend, regardless of the result.

I expect Henin to win in two sets and add to her mightily impressive clay court record of
78 wins and just 6 losses.

4 points Henin to win 2-0 circa 1.62.

I have one more bet for the final, which I will post shortly, after which, it will be football all the way.

Good Luck.

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