I was thinking of topics to write about two weeks ago during Wimbledon and meant to write this article way back then. I put it off but then had to revisit the topic while watching the ESPYs on ESPN.
I know the ESPYs don’t amount to much, they aren’t highly respected awards or anything like the Oscars or the Emmys. The fans also vote on the ESPYs so it’s largely a popularity contest. When it was announced that Maria Sharapova won for best female tennis player it was not a shock at all (although my money would’ve been on one of the Williams sisters), but I thought to myself that people really need to be educated on the sport of tennis.
No offense to Maria Sharapova. I actually like Maria Sharapova, which I think most people who actually follow tennis don’t like that her much because of her attitude. I’m assuming most of the people who voted for Maria Sharapova are the people who don’t really follow tennis and think she is hot. I do like Maria Sharapova though, she is a very good tennis player but she is not the number one female in tennis, neither is Serena Williams, neither is Venus Williams. Justine Henin is the top female in tennis and probably the most underrated female athlete in the world.
It’s easy to see that Justine Henin is the top female in tennis because unlike a lot of sports, tennis has a ranking system. The WTA Rankings take into consideration the last twelve months of play. Justine Henin is currently first in the WTA rankings; 779 points ahead of second place Maria Sharapova, 2077 points ahead of Serena Williams and 2802 points ahead of Venus Williams. The Sony Ericsson Tour takes into consideration only what a player has done this year. Justine Henin is also first in the Sony Ericsson point race; 255 points ahead of second place Jelena Jankovic, 1104 points ahead of Serena Williams, 1460 points ahead of Maria Sharapova and 1615 points ahead of Venus Williams.
Players like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova probably make a ton of money in endorsements but when it comes to just playing tennis Justine Henin also makes the most prize money in singles competition. So far this year Justine Henin has made 2.5 mil in prize money. Serena Williams has made 1.7 mil, Venus Williams has made 1.4 mil and Maria Sharapova has made 1 mil.
Everybody goes on and on about how great Roger Federer is, and he definitely is, but I don’t see why people don’t talk about Justine Henin more. Would you believe that Justine Henin went to as many Grand Slam Finals last year as Roger Federer? Well she did. She didn’t win three out of four Grand Slams like Roger Federer did but she did reach the finals in all four Grand Slams. That’s pretty impressive. No, Justine Henin hasn’t won Wimbledon five years in a row like Roger Federer but she has won three French Opens in a row, that isn’t something to sneeze at. In fact, Rafael Nadal just won his third French Open in a row this year and everybody made a big deal out of it, but there wasn’t anybody talking about Justine Henin.
Some people, especially ESPN broadcasters, might argue that while Justine Henin has had the better consistent year, Serena Williams is the better tennis player right now. Unfortunately for them, Serena Williams just lost her most recent matchup against Justine Henin at Wimbledon. Justine Henin is the top player in women’s tennis right now, it’s a fact.
Think about every women’s sport and the best player in their sport and you’ll see that Justine Henin is talked about the least. Everybody talks about Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird and Diani Taurasi in the WNBA and Candace Parker in College Basketball. Danica Patrick gets a lot of attention and last time I checked she hasn’t even won a race. Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam are talked about all the time in women’s golf. Even some of the women’s softball players like Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott are getting some love from ESPN. Amanda Beard gets attention for taking her clothes off and every four years even the women gymnasts, track stars and volleyball players get attention. Meanwhile, Justine Henin quietly continues to be the most underrated female athlete in all of sports.