Not about the Pilot Pen, but here's Jon Wertheim's "Inside Tennis" for this week
Mauresmo preps for the Williamses
Posted: Wednesday August 21, 2002 5:41 PM
If tennis stars are, by nature, self-absorbed, then Amelie Mauresmo never got the memo. In Montreal last week, she rescheduled her practice time so she could conduct a kids' clinic. If they are supposed to have off-court interests that run the intellectual gamut from tanning to shopping, Mauresmo missed the boat. She just finished reading an Ann Rule thriller and was grilling her driver in Montreal about the best French bookstores in town. If athletes are supposed to be as outspoken and opinionated as cupcakes, someone forgot to convey this to Mauresmo. In the French Open program she was asked, "If you could change one piece of legislation, what would it be?" Her answer was to extend the period in which women are eligible for an abortion.
So, too, is Mauresmo the most rara of avises on the court. Slinging her one-handed backhand like a scythe, pounding a crêpe-flat serve and retrieving balls that lesser players wouldn't even attempt to reach, she's a top-10 player with a bullet. After reaching the Wimbledon semifinals -- her best showing at a major since her emergence at the 1999 Australian Open -- she ran the table in Montreal last week. Given Mauresmo's ascent, compounded by the decline of Jennifer Capriati and injuries to Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport, she stands as good a chance as anyone of preventing an all-Williams final in New York.
In the past, however, Mauresmo's extraordinary maturity and talent haven't always played nice with each other. She has shown signs of being too aware of her surroundings to ignore pressure. She has been too introspective and honest with herself to deny that she was choking. An unexpected loss at the 2001 French Open stayed in her psyche for the better of a year. Yet today -- with a new coach (Loic Courteau), a new residence (Geneva) and a new perspective on both tennis and life -- her body and mind may, at last, be working in concert. Prior to the U.S. Open, she sat down with CNNSI.com:
CNNSI.com: How do you assess the state of your game heading into the Open?
Amelie Mauresmo: It's OK.
CNNSI.com: Just OK?
Mauresmo: No, no. It's good. It's coming together. I wasn't expecting to do so well in Montreal since I am just coming back. But I am feeling good, my back is feeling good. I like the hard courts and I am in shape mentally. And physically, too. So if it's hot in New York like it has been lately [in Montreal and New Haven], it won't be a problem.
CNNSI.com: This year you seem to be playing more consistently -- both in terms of results and point to point. Is this just from experience, or was there more of a conscious effort?
Mauresmo: I've been happy with the consistency and I don't feel like I've lost power. But what do I [attribute] it to? Mostly it's just patience.
CNNSI.com: A month removed, how do you reflect on Wimbledon? Do you remember reaching the semifinals and beating Jennifer Capriati, or does the loss to Serena Williams overwhelm the good?
Mauresmo: No, overall I have great memories. It was a little disappointing, obviously, what happened in the semifinals. But before that, I was able to play the game I wanted to play, including going to the net. That wasn't easy. People are saying, "You should go in more." But when you have been playing one way -- staying back, in my case -- for your career, it is not always easy to change just like that.
CNNSI.com: A lot was made of your remarks at Wimbledon that suggested the Williams sisters are simply too good; that, essentially, the rest of the players should set their sights on being No. 3.
Mauresmo: Well, I said that after the semifinal. I was pissed off, frustrated. I had no chances in the match. If it was a few weeks later, it would be different.
CNNSI.com: Now it is a few weeks later. Bottom line: Do you think you can beat them?
Mauresmo: Yes. I mean, it's not going to be easy. If they played the way they did at Wimbledon maybe you will have to play perfectly, or almost perfectly. But, yes, I do. Right now they have confidence and momentum, but they're not going to be at this level forever. When they're not, I want to be right there.
CNNSI.com: You realize that there other players who would never allow themselves to think so rationally?
Mauresmo: I would go on the court again with a [positive] attitude, but you have to be realistic.
CNNSI.com: Do you think you might be too rational -- even too smart -- for your own good as a player?
Mauresmo: [Laughs.] Sometimes I just need to let everything go, let the thoughts go and just play. For some people, they are winning when they are not really thinking about anything. Another thing about me: When my personal life is good, my tennis is better, so that's important.
CNNSI.com: For someone with outside interests, how do you find life on tour?
Mauresmo: Really, I feel very lucky. I am able to do with my life what I want, and do what I love -- play tennis -- for a job. I recognize not everyone is so lucky. I like the competition, and I feel like it's getting better and better for me each month.
CNNSI.com: When you look at the women's game, do you like where it's headed?
Mauresmo: Overall, yes. We are still getting popular, more than men's tennis in a lot of places. Could we still get more publicity in places and take more advantage of the personalities? Yes. It could always be better. But I think we are doing well.
CNNSI.com: Coming off of Montreal, how much pressure are you putting on yourself heading into the Open?
Mauresmo: I'm playing well, and it was nice to do so well at a big tournament. I feel good, really good. But a lot can happen. We'll see if it all comes together. I hope so. But, you know, I have to do more than hope.