Herpes sufferers find a champion in tennis star Justine Henin

Justine HeninLet 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.

And while discussing her recent victory at Roland Garros, Henin made herself a champion for others, as well – those with herpes.

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.

From Herpes.com:

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.

–WKW

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Herpes sufferers find a champion in tennis star Justine Henin

  1. Melissa McEwan

    My herpes came out again

    Of course I had to immediately check and see where she was from. Belgium. I knew it. No American would ever speak so casually about anything that evokes Teh Sexxx!!!ZOMG!!!

  2. Lizard

    Justine frequently appears with cold sores around her mouth, and I remember seeing them at the French Open final, so I suspect she was referring to oral herpes. Either way, of course, she’s brave to use the word out loud and to speak so un-self-consciously about herself. May the hordes of online tennis fans who already hate her (for reasons I’ve never quite understood) have mercy rather than pouncing on this in cruel glee.

    I’ve always admired her, frankly, for quietly going about the business of racking up Grand Slams while the media is busy drooling over Maria Sharapova.

  3. Melissa McEwan

    I suspect she was referring to oral herpes

    I’m sure you’re right. And I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Just that, because we’re a nation of two-year-olds, we can’t talk about anything remotely connected to sex without it being a Big Fucking Deal.

  4. Lizard

    Absolutely….and, of course, once we start talking about sex, it’s a short leap to misogyny! I’ve also seen this story today on a sports-related blog, where the author wrote something to the effect of “I’m sure Justine’s ex-husband is thrilled to have the whole world know that he may have gotten herpes from his ex-wife.” Quick—count up all the things wrong with that sentence!

    Retch.

  5. Lizard,

    Trying to research this, basically all I got was posts mocking Henin. Obviously I don’t want to misrepresent her, but someone with her amount of media savvy (six grand slam titles will do that) must have known that even using the word would be huge.

    If I see anything to add to this, I’ll make sure to do so.

    –WKW

  6. Rose

    I always admired the way she handles herself with such class when Serena Williams takes cheap shots at her – Serena is such a sore loser, and Justine is always a classy winner. Now I admire her even more. By the way, this could be a language thing, but no American with a cold sore would ever refer to it as “herpes” even though it is, so I think she was probably (though not certainly) referring to the genital type.

  7. Melissa McEwan

    “I’m sure Justine’s ex-husband is thrilled to have the whole world know that he may have gotten herpes from his ex-wife.” Quick—count up all the things wrong with that sentence!

    Starting with: #1–Maybe she got it from him.

  8. Lizard

    Yep, that was #1 on my list.

  9. cellar door

    I always have a nitpick when it comes to discussions of HSV – “oral type” and “genital type” are kind of misleading. HSV1 can exist happily on your genitals and HSV2 can live happily on your mouth. Or either one can live happily on skin anywhere, infections are just more common on thinner, moist skin.

    We have such a weird reaction about herpes as a culture. I found out when talking with a friend some months ago that HSV screening isn’t part of the STD panel you get when you request one form a doctor or clinic, even when you request a complete panel. Part of this is because the blood tests can be expensive, but some poking around also revealed that government agencies don’t recommend herpes testing as part of routine evaluation because of how ubiquitous the virus is, and because the stigma of herpes is so disproportionate to the actual symptoms of the infection. Eep.

  10. bernarda

    Rose is so wrong, “Serena is such a sore loser, and Justine is always a classy winner.”

    Both Serena and Venus have always been very friendly to the crowds, even when the contrary has not been true. When Henin beat Serena a couple of years ago in the French Open, the crowd bordered on racism in their support for Henin. Even the French press found it offensive.

    Of course that is not Henin’s fault, but to accuse Serena of being a “sore loser” is false.

    Then again there are the suspicions of Henin’s possible use of performance enhancing drugs, which were even brought up by the camp of her compatriot, Kim Cljisters.

    Take a look at Kim and at Justine. Just who appears actually feminine?

  11. bernarda,

    Rose is spot on correct.

    Serena never “loses”, she just doesn’t play well enough to win.

    That is her statement every time she loses: I just didn’t play well today.

    She never gives credit to the other player for outplaying her.
    She IS a sore loser and has zero class.
    The outrageous outfits, tiaras, etc., do not belong on a tennis court.
    We need more Henin’s, Clisters, Grafs and Navratilovas and less of the diva types that think the tennis court is their personal fashion runway.

    I can only imagine Serena as a golfer…

  12. Lies

    As a fellow Belgian I honnestly dont’t understand the controversy. Oral herpes is fairly common, no? Here it isn’t considered a big deal, most people deal with it at some point, no stigma attached. Treatment is over the counter en ads for Zovirax (the most commonly used salve) can be found everywhere (and are not shaming).

  13. mychitterman

    thanks to venus and serena womens’ tennis got some colour and style.

    for you bland folks, continue in the ghostly white.

    about the herpes bit, who is to say that the ex did not give it to her. hope she chooses better next time.
    the williams sister could introduce her to someone with colour and style

  14. BlueStar

    Sorry folks, Henin showed very little class years ago when she played “dumb” knowing she should have lost that point in the French Open final to Serena. And yes, the French showed outright racism in support of Henin! For some people, this is acceptable even in tournaments here in the US.

    Don’t get me wrong, I adore Henin and her all around game. Frankly, I think her game is the best out there. Unfortunately, that one moment in time put her (Henin) on the classless list for me and many of those I know who watched that French Open Final.

    A far as her herpes, I agree, it is no big deal. We do have a society of immature 2 year olds here in the US and they should be ignored or shipped off to a nursery. For her peace of mind, I hope they can find something for her to suppress it permanently. As far as who may have given it to whom between her and her ex, it is none of anyone’s business. And frankly, who cares? Adults could care less about things like that. Especially here in the US where we have MUCH bigger problems!

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