The first entry in a new weekly feature, ‘Video of the Week‘.
The warm up drill on show in this video of Justine Henin is a quite ordinary exercise, one which is likely to be familiar to tennis players worldwide. What is extraordinary about this video is the sheer racket head speed, flawless technique and early timing of her groundstrokes. It is these talents which have allowed the diminutive Belgian to compete and at times dominate her taller, stronger adversaries, collecting seven Grand Slam titles in the process.
The drill begins with both players standing halfway up the court, on the service line. Henin is hitting light, topspin heavy groundstrokes, keeping the rally going and allowing both herself and her hitting partner to establish a hitting rhythm. As both players retreat and eventually come to the baseline, the rally develops into a hard hitting baseline exchange.
This is a hitting exercise where both players are hitting down the middle of the court, practising purely their ball striking ability. There is not a great athletic element to it, as both players are not trying to manoeuvre each other out of position. While Henin is a fine athlete, this video serves as a tribute to her talent and ability, specifically her backhand, which has been described as the best one-handed backhand in the history of the women’s game.
Henin’s groundstrokes have fairly short takebacks, which enables her to stand on top of the baseline and dominate exchanges, while her rapid racket head speed ensures that she does not suffer for lack of power on either forehand or backhand. From this short piece of footage it is clear how Henin has, despite her lack of stature, been able to dominate an era of the women’s game where the power game rules.