Justine Henin is a retired professional tennis player. She is one of the best players in the history of the game!
Born in 1982 in Belgium, she came to the sport of Tennis at an early age and as a junior she even managed to win the 1997 French Open Junior Title.
Since the young age of 13 years she was coached by Carlos Rodriguez. Having a coach for your entire career is very rare in Pro Tennis!
Throughout her career she won 43 WTA Tour singles titles and seven overall Grand Slam Titles!
Let’s have a look at Justine’s game in the context of the four areas of Tennis (Technical, Tactical, Physical, Mental).
But first check out Justine’s incredible forehand!
Henin’s forehand: A Short Compact Swing!
I think what sets Justine apart from many other top players on the WTA Tour is her ability to play all over the court!
She can mix up the pace with great slice shots and come forward to play the net.
This is a direct result of her technical skills. Tennis is all about physics and Justine, in addition to great groundstrokes and a solid serve, has very good mechanics on her slice and volleys.
Justine’s forehand is one of the best shots on the WTA Tour!
She has a very short and compact swing, similar to many players on the men’s tour.
This is very effective since most of the power on groundstrokes is generated through the body rather than the arm. Many women prefer their backhands over their forehands and I believe that often too big of a swing is causing the weaker forehand stroke.
Justine has a great leg drive in her forehand and generates power through the legs and rotation of the upper body. This short compact swing with a moderate grip allows her to take the ball early and pressure opponents, somewhat similar to Roger Federer.
She also plays with a rather straight hitting arm, similar to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It will be interesting to see if this is a trend developing in the professional game in the next few years.
Overall she uses the kinetic chain really well on this forehand!
To learn more about the kinetic chain
visit the Tennis Strokes page on this website!
Justine is known for her beautiful one-handed backhand. People admire the stroke especially since she is so small and not many women can hit a good one-hander.
Justine’s one-hander is proof to show that power in Tennis is generated more through the kinetic chain and not through strong muscles!
Justine Henin has a slightly more extreme grip on the one-hander than most other players with good one-handers. This grip causes her to rotate the upper body a bit more.
I personally would not teach this grip but it works well for her especially since she is small and the balls are usually rather high in her strike zone.
Again the reason the stroke works well is that she swings inside-out and uses her body well to generate power!
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Justine is one of the few women on the WTA Tour that can really hit a great slice backhand.
One of the key elements to hit a stable slice is a solid wrist position through impact and Justine has just that.
In general, many women struggle with the slice and one-handed backhands because they have trouble stabilizing the racket-head throughout contact. This requires a little bit of strength as well as correct technique. Justine Henin manages to do this exceptionally well and her slice therefore has enough pace, stays rather low and does not float.
Henin is also one of the few women
that can really play the net well!
She manages to stabilize the racket-head well on forehand and backhand volleys.
Volleys are by far the easiest shots in tennis
from a technical standpoint!
It always amazes me that so many professional players still do not manage to master the net game. In fact I have a heard time thinking of any other top female player that can really play the net well. There are players like Venus and Serena who manage to finish points pretty well at the net but I certainly would not say that they have a great net game.
The technical and tactical areas of the game are closely related. Why is this the case ? You need technical skills that give you tactical options.
Her sound stroke mechanics allow Justine Henin to be
a great tactical player as well!
She can mix up the pace with her slice backhand much better than most other players; the reason she can do this is of course her solid technique on the slice. A lot of her opponents struggle in dealing with the slice since they rarely face it from other players. Therefore it is quite an advantage for Justine.
Overall Justine plays a very smart tactical game!
Somewhat similar to Roger Federer she can play great offense, she can defend/neutralize and she can come forward at the right moments.
Like any successful top player she plays aggressive percentage tennis (check out the strategy section for more info) and knows when to hit the ball cross-court and when to go down the line for a big shot. Despite her size disadvantage she has found a way to effectively use her serve to set up her powerful baseline game.
Justine Henin is in great physical shape.
She is known for her work ethic and has trained hard with famous conditioning coach Pat Etcheberry throughout her career.
Why then do I rank her last in physical abilities ?
I had to rank her last in something and the fact that she is so small is certainly a disadvantage that she has to deal with!
She cannot serve as big as some of the other players and with her size it is certainly more difficult to cover the net; yet she manages to do this extremely well for her size. In fact I think she has pretty much maximized her physical abilities.
Justine is a fighter when she plays Tennis.
I really like her attitude on the court and therefore it was a close decision to rank her mental game behind her technical and tactical game!
When you watch Justine in a big match you can see the attitude of a champion. She shows positive body language at all times, she fires herself up after big points and she never loses her temper on the court!
Her opponents know from the beginning that she will not give them anything easy in the match and that she will fight till the end. When you face someone that plays that well and also never falls apart mentally it can be quite challenging to believe in yourself.
Justine is another player that is difficult to rank since she is exceptional in all four areas.
I would rank Justine’s skills in the following order: