NEW HAVEN — Sixth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, admittedly in a solid rhythm coming off an impressive win in the Rogers AT&T Cup at Montreal, didn't need any help against Tatiana Panova in the first round of the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament on Tuesday.
But she got help in the form of Panova's 34 unforced errors. Mauresmo's power game coupled with the errors led to an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Panova at the Connecticut Tennis Center.
Mauresmo, ranked 10th in the world, will face qualifier Elena Bovina today and will be the third match of the afternoon on Stadium Court.
"The match was OK. Some game's were actually more difficult than they might have seemed," Mauresmo said. "I was actually a little tight today. I just got here yesterday (Monday) and then I played a doubles match last night.
"My confidence is here now and it's a great feeling. Of course, I couldn't ask for anything better than a win to start the tournament."
The doubles match Mauresmo referred to was a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win with partner Patty Schnyder over Martina Navratilova and Iroda Tulyaganova on Monday.
In her singles match, the fourth game in the first set actually set the tone for the rest of the match.
With Panova serving and ahead 40-0, she returned three of Mauresmo's returns into the net to send the game to deuce. With advantage Mauresmo, Panova proceeded to double fault to give Mauresmo the game and a 3-1 lead.
With Mauresmo ahead 4-2 and serving, she used an ace on game point to go up 5-2. The next game went to deuce. A blistering shot down the left line gave her the advantage and Panova handed the set to Mauresmo by returning a shot weakly into the net.
Panova tried to rebound in the second set by using a power game of her own. And she cut down on the unforced errors (13 compared to 21 in the first set). But Mauresmo was cruising and seemed to play with more ease as the match went on.
The second set was tied at 1 as Mauresmo won the next three games. With her serving and ahead 40-15, a 99 mph serve gave her an ace and a 4-1 lead as she went on to win the match.
The result perpetuated Mauresmo's dominance over Panova. Mauresmo is now 5-0 over Panova since 1998.
"It's so difficult when you have so many good players out there, you're just trying to find that consistency against all players," Mauresmo said. "I am more mature now and, hopefully, I can keep that consistency going longer."
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 crępe-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.
Aug 22nd, 2002, 08:09 AM
Thanks for the report Linnie :)
Take it we should gather that her personal life is good then? ;)
NEW HAVEN — Sixth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo survived a scare from Pilot Pen tennis tournament qualifier Elena Bovina by turning it on when it counted the most — the tiebreaker of the third and final set.
Mauresmo came through with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (1) second-round win over Bovinaat the Connecticut Tennis Center on Wednesday.
In the third game tiebreaker, Mauresmo took a 5-0 lead, hitting her shots hard and with pinpoint placements on the way to a 7-1 tiebreak win.
Mauresmo admitted she was tired. She was coming off a grueling tournament in Montreal, which she won, then played a Pilot Pen doubles match Monday night followed by a first-round singles match Tuesday afternoon.
"It was just one of those days, where you are happy just to get off the court with a win," Mauresmo said. "I'm getting a little tired and I'm getting upset more quickly while I'm playing because of that.
"The tiebreaker was the best part of the match for me. Last week I played in three of them and I won all three. So I had confidence going into this one. I thought I would win this tiebreaker too."
Bovina, who was serving with a 5-4 lead in the third set, said she let one get away.
"I was up 5-4 and serving for the match, what more could you ask for?" Bovina said. "I didn't play aggressive enough to beat her. You have to make the winners and I didn't in that game. She didn't give me anything.
"Coming in I was confident I could beat her. I'm playing great and I expected to win. You have the opportunity every week to win. It didn't work out today. I'll just go on and play another tournament and I'll have another chance."
Mauresmo admitted she wasn't focused throughout the match.
Down 5-4 in the third set with Bovina serving, Mauresmo's power game picked up and she kept Bovina stuck at the baseline. At 15-40, Bovina tried to smash a shot toward the right corner but it went long, tying the set at 5.
"I didn't even know she was serving for the match at that point," Mauresmo said. "I thought it was 4-3. When the umpire said the match was tied at 5-5, I was surprised. I guess it was good I didn't know she was serving for the match."