Let there be no doubt that the best female tennis player on the clay court is Justine Henin, as her four French Open victories – including the last three consecutive – prove her to be the best when it comes to the challenges that playing on clay present.
Q. Weren’t you afraid that the emotional side of things would have too much influence on that match?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, I didn’t panic. I knew I was not starting that match well. I can tell you, I had a horrible night. My herpes came out again, and I said to my doctor, “Well, I see everything is fine, it’s great.”
So, really, I was a bit anxious. But also, I really wanted to do well. And very early in the match, the match turned over. And then I knew I was going to be able to keep it up until the end.
With that one simple answer, Henin became a champion of a disease that is rarely spoken of unless as a joke. But it is an epidemic.
Oral herpes, an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, is estimated to be present in 50 to 80 percent of the American adult population. 20 percent, over 50 million people, are infected with genital herpes, also caused by the herpes simplex virus, and the majority of these cases may be unaware they even have it. Studies show that more than 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with genital herpes each year, and the largest increase is occurring in young teens.
With six Grand Slam titles to her credit, Henin is no stranger to plaudits. But even more need to be extended to her for speaking openly about something that is the secret of so many.
With that one turn of a phrase, millions and millions of herpes sufferers now know that they are by no means alone. And with her remark, the term “Champion” fits her even to those who have no interest in professional tennis.