For years the debate surrounding Amelie Mauresmo was whether she could ever conquer her nerves and win a Grand Slam. She undoubtedly had the talent to do just that; as early as 1999 at the age of just 19 the Frenchwoman reached the final of the Australian Open – beating then World number 1 Lindsay Davenport and two other seeds only to lose to second seed Martina Hingis at the last hurdle.
The years since then saw Mauresmo quickly become a household name and her silky smooth classic game style complete with a gorgeous one handed backhand was a breath of fresh air within a women’s game that was becoming more and more brutal and lacking in finesse with the rise of the Williams sisters style of baseline power.
Over the years Mauresmo had won many tour titles and was a consistent name within the throes of the games top five. That final down under was the closest she had got to winning a Grand Slam with many pundits, experts and ex-players sometimes very publicly stating that the woman from St Germains simply didn’t have the mental toughness to triumph in the games’ biggest theatres.
That all changed of course in 2006 when, after nine Grand Slam quarter finals and four semi finals Mauresmo reached another final, her first in seven years and at the Australian once again. It was to prove an anticlimax, her opponent; a troubled Justine Henin-Hardenne tamely withdrew early on. She had done it, the second longest wait for a major (32 attempts in all) had ended.
Mauresmo’s name would be engraved upon the Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup and her place in history was assured. But she didn’t feel like a champion. At Wimbledon of the same year Mauresmo won a Grand Slam the way she wanted to, by beating a field of fully fit players and fittingly a fully fit Henin in the final.
Suddenly, Mauresmo had gone from ’one of the best players to never win a major’ to one that had accomplished an awful lot. She has been number one in the world (briefly in September 2004 and for most of 2006) and in 2005 she won the Season Ending Championships. Add to these achievements those two Slams and it is easy to see how any player may feel satisfied with their career.
This is especially true of Mauresmo who has a renowned love of life outside the game and is as far from the Russian machine-like temperament of a Chakvetadze as you can get.
2007 signalled Mauresmo’s first year-end finish outside of the top-ten in seven years and was a year blighted by two separate two month lay offs with an emergency appendectomy and a right abductor strain respectively. Despite a third straight title win in Antwerp it was a year of disappointing major campaigns and latter stage finishes in smaller tournaments.
Her latest loss, a third round exit to new Australian starlet Casey Dellacqua was a big indicator that the passion for the game is beginning to leave Mauresmo. Completely out of sorts and on many occasions seemingly forgetting the games fundamentals, Mauresmo was a shadow of her former self. True she lacks match practice after a dismal end to 2007.
Never one for the public eye I fancy that if such results continue then we could be seeing a Clijsters-like early retirement and the loss of one of the games great ambassadors and finest talents.
Image from BBC Sport