by Tim Brimblecombe
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
A tearful Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn from her quarter-final against Fabiola Zuluaga due to a back injury.
The women's No.4 seed Mauresmo sustained the injury to the left side of her back early in the fourth-round match against Australian Alicia Molik.
It is a massive blow for Mauresmo who acknowledged that with several key players injured or already eliminated, Australian Open 2004 was her best chance to win a Grand Slam. Mauresmo had dropped just 16 games on her way to the quarter-final. She reached the final of the adidas International in Sydney last week, losing to world No.1 Justine Henin-Hardenne.
The 25-year-old lost the Australian Open 1999 final to Martina Hingis and has since reached four Grand Slam quarter-finals and two semi-finals. She missed last year's Australian Open due to injury but with former champions Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati out injured and Venus Williams eliminated in the third-round, Mauresmo knew 2004 was her big chance.
"It is such a big disappointment for me as I was playing some good tennis and I had some opportunities in this tournament," an emotional Mauresmo said. "But that's just the way it is. There's nothing much to do about it."
Mauresmo was not hampered by the injury against Molik on Sunday, but struggled the following day.
"I was able to go to the end (against Molik) because I guess I was warm. I didn't feel very good yesterday.
"I wanted to try this morning to have a little hit and see how it goes and see how I felt … when I hit some shots, I can feel really strong pain.
"I really was hoping that I could handle the situation and handle the shots a little better. But I realised this morning when I practiced that it was not going to be possible."
Mauresmo said she was also concerned about risking further injury and was yet to consult a doctor to see how long she will be unable to play.
Fabiola was aware that Mauresmo had sustained the injury but prepared expecting to play. The 25-year-old was the first Colombian, male or female, to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final and meets the winner of the match between Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport in the semi-final.
"I did not want it to be the first time this way, I prefer to play, but I just had some luck today," Zuluaga said.
"I heard about it (the injury) but I was prepared for playing as you hear many things and I just concentrated on the match today. I was prepared to play at 11o'clock."