Everybody waited with bated breath for this match when the draw was announced and now it’s finally here. Day Three of the Australian Open promises to be cracking as we will observe a cool Belgian against a composed Russian with only their fiery shots doing the talking.
The last time Justine Henin and Elena Dementieva met was at Stuttgart in 2007 and Henin then was sitting atop the WTA rankings. It was a match which the Belgian won with consummate ease.
More than two years on, the two are to cross each other’s paths once again, but it is a very different scenario now.
Henin has just come out of an 18-month sabbatical from tennis and is yet to find her top gear, having played only a single tournament before the Aussie Open, while Elena is more mature and poised now, and above all, less error-prone.
And so here we have an unseeded Henin facing the fifth-seeded Dementieva in a blockbuster second-round showdown which has all the potential to be a Grand Slam semifinal.
In this article, Justine Henin’s chances are discussed while the expert analyst, Rajat Jain, will discuss Elena Dementieva’s chances.
Henin Will Win If
Holder of seven Grand Slams and 41 WTA titles in total, Justine Henin knows all too well what it takes to perform against a formidable opponent on a big stage.
Proud possessor of an elegant all-court game she has been regarded as the "Female Federer" by Martina Navratilova. Her fabulous single-handed backhand, attributed as the "best backhand" by John McEnroe, evokes awe.
An 18-month hibernation hasn’t been able to take any sheen off her backhand as she proved with her solid display at Brisbane where she reached the final and also in the Aussie Open first round.
The forehand too seems to be as lethal as before, pounding winners one after the other. Add to that Justine’s nimble footwork, fine anticipation, and pin-point precision—she has returned as very much the player who held the summit ranking for a total of 117 weeks.
Elena Dementieva is no stranger to Henin, who has downed the Russian a whopping nine out of 11 times. And the fifth-ranked Russian’s meltdowns towards the end of matches and her fragile nerves are all too familiar for Henin, the 2004 Aussie Open champion who is famous for her mental fortitude and endurance.
Dementieva’s serves too are as unpredictable as ever. Although she has cut down the errors of late, they still continue to trouble her at crunch moments which the 27 year old Belgian should readily capitalize upon.
If Henin can maintain a consistency in her own first serves and keep the double faults to a minimum, she definitely can be within sniffing distance of a third-round match at Melbourne Park.
Henin Will Lose If
One must not forget that this will be Henin’s seventh match since her comeback. Playing in only her second tournament, Justine definitely is yet to find her top-level intensity and rhythm, which she herself admits.
On the other hand, Elena comes into this match brimming with confidence having just defended her Sydney title beating top-ranked Serena Williams on the way.
The Plexicushion at Melbourne Park provides a grand opportunity for Dementieva, the Beijing Olympic Gold-medallist, to display her mind-blowing ball-striking and to unleash her superb forehands.
If Elena can hold her nerves, serve decently throughout the match, and attack Justine’s comparatively weaker second serves, she surely will have a chance to try and win her first Grand Slam here.
The smooth and fluid movement of both the players will be a delight to watch. Along with it, Henin’s resilience has always been something worth admiring.
Shots To Look Out For
What could be better than watching Henin’s graceful backhand weaving its magic again?
Rod Laver Arena will be witnessing fireworks when these two versatile players take the court in the evening session. The match, which might turn out to be the best match in the women’s draw, is guaranteed to be a riveting one.
Henin, because of her experience and belief, will ultimately prevail in three sets.