Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have been on the tennis map for several years, but the spotlight on the 'Belgian Waffles' this year only intensifies. The start of the year will be pivotal for the two, as both players search for grand slam glory once more. For Justine Henin, it is difficult to see her lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. For Kim Clijsters, it is even more a task for her to claim title number one.
Finesse meets intelligence and explosiveness in the form of Henin. She can hit any shot in the book, and can even improvise shots in the blink of an eye. But with a game that revolves around movement and quickness, Henin has slowly made less of an impact on the WTA Tour, because of her aging self.
With the Plexicushion at the Australian Open a slower hard court, the Belgian will have enough time to set up, but still have a good amount of short points to lessen the chance of exhaustion.
In her first round match, Henin survived an upset from India's Sania Mirza. After dropping a close first set, she dug deep to stay at the Open one round longer. Her shaky win was one of concern for the Belgian's team, as her opponents will likely be tougher as the Open progresses. The cause of her lengthy lay-off, and injured elbow, held up reasonably well, but as she has stated, her elbow was not feeling '100 percent" just yet. The rust also showed in her game: her strokes were not consistent, and her confidence was not at a high.
Henin has not received help from the draw. Her third round opponent is two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian had a dismal 2010, and would definitely like to prove she is still a force at the grand slams. After losing to an on-fire Nadia Petrova last year, no doubt will she be thinking about redeeming herself. First step: to defeat Henin. Kuznetsova's solid strokes, especially her huge forehand, will trouble Henin, whose movement has been sub-par lately compared to her movement during her peak.
One-half of the Belgian Waffle duo is not a probable lifter of the Australian Open trophy, but the other waffle is no better off.
Kim Clijsters is arguably the favorite down under. Her solid game, and high confidence are her advantages at the start of the Asia-Pacific Grand Slam. She won the championship match at the US Open in September, and defeated the World No. 1 in the finals of the WTA Tour Championships.
Despite all the 'plusses' coming in, one huge minus is Clijsters' weak mental game, as seen in her shocking 6-0, 6-1 loss to Nadia Petrova last year. When it has come to crunch time, Clijsters does not always play well enough to get out of a tight spot. Blowing big leads is also a problem, showcased at this year's Sydney tournament, where she squandered a 5-0 lead in the second set to surrender the trophy to China's Li Na.
The Belgian Waffles have had their time, when they ruled over the crepes, brownies, cakes, and pies. At this Australian Open, these Waffles will be eaten by the spectators, or more likely, their fragile minds and inability to finesse their way out of sticky—or creamy— situations.