Matt Cronin for FOXSports.com has an fascinating interview with Carlos Rodriguez, former coach and business partner to Justine Henin, in which he discusses Justine's retirement and the state of the tour. Carlos also had some biting words for some of the up-and-coming lady ballers and their "efforts" to grab the keys to the WTA Penthouse.
Rodriguez says that one of the reasons that Henin is retired is that she's looking to prove to herself that she can do more than just "hitting the ball" and will only likely consider a comeback once she has taken a very necessary mental break.
On which ballers have real quality:
I have a lot of respect for the other players, but outside of the Willamses and Sharapova, the rest are still really poor.
You can't teach [how to fight.] You can learn a lot of things, but you cannot change the natural personality of a player. With Serena, Venus, Justine and Jennifer Capriati, they have the personality that even when they weren't enjoying it, they could go through. There's no question that Maria, Serena and Venus are far and away from the other players. Their quality is too good.
On Jelena Jankovic:
That's the face of tennis today, with a player who is reaching No.1 without winning a Grand Slam. It's a sign. She's a good player, but when you see Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters, they not only win Grand Slams, but they have the charisma. They give something extra, not only hitting balls. There's more behind them.
On the recent struggles of Ana Ivanovic:
I think Ana can do big things, but she needs more maturity. It's very difficult for a player to learn what to do when she's in trouble. Ivanovic is not able to have a Plan B or C to solve the situations, and she loses complete control. The coach can help with this, but in the end, it's up to the player to find for herself what possibilities will work. The coach can only help you to a certain point.
On his short stint working with Anna Chakvetadze:
Anna seems like she wants to work, but I told her, at the end of the day, deep inside of you, you don't want to try to go further and to push yourself more to succeed. I cannot help you if you don't have the will to do something, even if I'm the best or worst coach in the world. She has the talent. But she's really confused as to what she needs to do to succeed to do to become a No. 1 or No. 2 player in the world. She's not ready to make the sacrifices it takes to go to the top, there's not question about it. A champion is one inside and outside the court, and when you take Anna outside the court, she's really a disaster.
On Nicole Vaidisova's potential:
She's amazing. It comes back to the entourage she has around her. It's so important. When you are talking mental, these girls are very strong, but when you are talking emotional, it's very hard. The emotional takes over the mental and she completely loses the way. It's a pity. I hope someone can take care of her because she's charismatic and is a really good player, but her emotional (state) and the intelligence is not that good.
On Maria Sharapova:
She showed that she's able to dominate, but it's not a question of once in a while, it's a question of regularity and the only way she can do it is to concentrate 100 percent on her tennis. If Maria doesn't do that, she's never going to find the consistency throughout the year. In tennis, to be a champion, you have to choose to do everything you have to succeed in your sport. I think today Maria is unable to do so.
She has to concentrate, practice and live for her tennis — no endorsements, publicity and wasting time outside of the court with other things that distract you from No. 1. Once and for all, in front of the mirror, she has to ask herself, 'What do I want to achieve in my career?' I have all the possibilities to be No. 1 and stay there for a long time, but this is the price I have to pay.
On Serena Williams:
Serena has the quality, and everything she needs mentally and physically to do it she has. But is she going take care of herself and prepare to go into action? If she does that, I think Serena has another two or three great years left.
Don't hold back Carlos, tell us how you really feel! Boy, he certainly laid into some of these ladies - Anna's "really a disaster" off court? Ouch.
I agree with him on most of the points especially Ana's lack of a Plan B, Chaky's lack of real desire and motivation, and which ladies are true champions on the tour.
Like Cronin, I was also surprised with his choice of Nicole as the baller with the most potential. Clearly the Czech has talent and potential and suffers from emotional breakdowns. But more talented than Ana? I find them to be quite similar actually: big serves, blowtorch forehands, stiff backhands, average footwork, mentally shaky.
And it seems the door is open for Justine to make a comeback though I don't think it'll be anytime soon if it does happen at all. Drats.
(image via daylife.com)