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CanIGetAWhat
May 25th, 2006, 08:12 PM
Updated: May 25, 2006, 2:04 PM ET
Mauresmo's time to win the French is now

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com Senior Writer

Life, by definition, is a window of opportunity.

In sport, where an athlete's peak of powers compresses a generation into six or seven years, that fleeting window is narrow indeed.

This year, for so many reasons, is the year for Amelie Mauresmo. Yes, 2006 represents the best chance ever to win the tournament that means the most to her: The French Open.

Injuries and circumstance have swung in her favor, and the French native of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is positioned to produce her best result. Roland Garros, where the pressure on her -- externally and, more important, internally -- is immense, remains the only Grand Slam in which she hasn't at least escaped the quarterfinals.

http://espn-att.starwave.com/photo/2006/0523/ten_g_mauresmo_195.jpg
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Mauresmo's game is suited for clay, yet she's just 19-11 with no titles at the French Open.

But Mauresmo arrives at the venerable venue in the leafy west corner of Paris a very different athlete than the one who lost a third-round match there to Ana Ivanovic in 2005. Mauresmo was the third seed, but fell to the teenager from Serbia in three sets.

Over the last eight months, Mauresmo has rallied famously and played the best tennis of her life. She earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time last September (becoming the first Frenchwoman to reach the top), won the year-end Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships, also for the first time, then broke through with her first Grand Slam victory in the Australian Open.

That's a lot of firsts at the relatively advanced age (in the context of professional tennis) of 26.

AMERICAN WOMEN AT ROLAND GARROS

There was a time when the French Open, at least on the women's side, was in danger of becoming the U.S. Open. In the 13 events at Roland Garros between 1974 and 1986, Chris Evert (seven titles) and Martina Navratilova (two) won nine.

In the last 19 years, however, American women have managed to win only two championships, by Jennifer Capriati in 2001 and Serena Williams in 2002. Since neither player will be in this year's draw -- Capriati seems to have retired and Williams (whose ranking has fallen to No. 108) is nursing a chronic knee injury -- odds are good that Americans will fall short again.

The two top-ranked U.S. women, Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams, are a collective 0-for-20 at Roland Garros. Davenport, ranked No. 7 at the age of 29, reached the semifinals in 1998 and three quarterfinals. No. 13-ranked Venus lost in the 2002 final to her sister. The eight remaining women among America's top 10 have a combined record of 29-41 (.414) at Roland Garros.


"Having the kind of wins that I've had in the last three, four months gave me a lot of confidence," Mauresmo said in March. "And, really, put me into a position where I'm relaxed now in the way I handle every tournament I go in, and in the way I'm walking on the court. Even though I can still have bad days, or whatever, I feel much more comfortable now than I used to."

Translation: She has relaxed and it has freed her athletic and stylish game. Mental toughness is no longer an oxymoron for Mauresmo.

"Maybe I played some better tennis at other [career] points, but mentally I was not feeling so strong," Mauresmo said. "So now I think three main things in the game -- tennis, physical, mental -- all these three really came together here."

Still, there is no pressure like a nation's yearning. England's Tim Henman and Australia's Lleyton Hewitt have the game to win at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, respectively, but are a collective 0-for-22 in their home Grand Slams. Of course, with some personalities, the pressure can have the opposite effect.

"Some people actually get better," said Mary Carillo, part of the ESPN and NBC broadcast teams at Roland Garros. "John McEnroe loved playing in New York -- that really worked for him. Yannick Noah, the only one he won [the 1983 French Open] came on home turf. With Amelie, it's tough to say what you're going to get.

"She's going to feel like she's lugging a bunch of rocks around on her back, but she's become a very good competitor the last half year and she's a fine clay court player. I mean, how many people can win this thing? Henin-Hardenne? Clijsters? Petrova? Mauresmo? That's it -- I'm running out of names.

"I wouldn't put her at the top of the list, but she's got to be in the conversation."

Let's review: Serena Williams, the 1999 French champion, is nursing a chronic knee injury and will not be in attendance. Lindsay Davenport, still a top-10 player, is out with a back injury. Venus Williams, whose ranking has fallen to No. 13 due to various injuries, has played only a handful of matches. Martina Hingis is climbing through the rankings after a three-year sabbatical, but she's never won the French and has yet to prove she's ready to win a sixth Grand Slam. Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 5 in the world, is far more comfortable on the grass at Wimbledon and the hard court of the U.S. Open.

That leaves the four women correctly referenced by Carillo:

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending French Open champion, has been inconsistent and split her last two clay meetings with Nadia Petrova in the last month, losing the final in Hamburg. Kim Clijsters, the No. 2-ranked player, lost to Dinara Safina a week ago in the third round at Rome. Petrova, whose ranking has risen to a career-high No. 3, is 15-0 on clay this year, winning events in Amelia Island, Charleston and Hamburg. And yet, she has a reputation for being mentally fragile; in the wake of Mauresmo's victory in Australia, Petrova might be the most talented and experienced player on the women's side not to have won a Grand Slam.

And then there is the No. 1-ranked Mauresmo. The victory in the season-end championship, which featured wins against Clijsters (ending a seven-match losing streak), Elena Dementieva, Sharapova and Mary Pierce in a grueling 3-hour, 46-minute final, gave her enormous momentum for 2006.

Mauresmo ended a 0-for-31 run in Grand Slams with a victory over Henin-Hardenne in the 2006 Australian Open final in January. It was not a classic domination by any means. Clijsters (sprained ankle) retired in the third set of their semifinal match trailing 3-2, and then Henin-Hardenne retired in the final with gastrointestinal illness after losing the first set 6-1 and trailing 0-2 in the second. It was only the second time in the Open Era (1968) a Grand Slam final ended in retirement.

It was ironic because Henin-Hardenne is one of the mentally toughest competitors in all of sport. In Mauresmo's mind, at least, the Slam wasn't tainted.

"The joy is here," she said after the championship match. "It's tough for Justine, but I also think I was playing some great tennis today.

"I've been waiting so long for this. It's really a great achievement. I have now achieved everything I announced in my career. Fed Cup, being No. 1 and winning a Grand Slam. So I'm very proud of that, I have to say. I'm probably the proudest woman for now."

In the first of her seven matches in Melbourne, Mauresmo fell into a 4-6 hole in the first set against Sun TianTian of China before winning the final two sets by identical 6-2 scores. As she progressed through the draw, Mauresmo answered the questions about her inability to win the big match with admirable grace.

"I haven't won the big one," Mauresmo acknowledged before the final. "I don't really take things like this. I don't see things like this because it's very different what I'm living and what I'm going through from what has been written and said on me. I don't really feel this way.

"I hope it's going to happen tomorrow. What can I say? Yeah, it's not very often. Some never do. You know, I'm still in position where I can still believe in doing it."

Golfer Phil Mickelson broke through his 0-for-42 streak in the majors with a win in the 2004 Masters. Now, he's won three of the nine. Is Mauresmo destined for the same trajectory?

In her post-championship press conference in Australia, Mauresmo was asked about the French Open, then five months in the future.

"I think really The Championships made me a different player," she said. "Is this title going to make me also a different one? I don't know. It's probably too early to say. I think I've achieved a lot of things now in my career. I can really be pretty relaxed now about the way I walk on the court and the way I play. "Really not too much to prove, I think, any more."

GrandSlam05
May 25th, 2006, 08:17 PM
Thanx for the article CIGaW! And HAWT avatar btw! :hearts:

hablo
May 25th, 2006, 08:36 PM
Allez Momo, you just gotta believe :hearts:

Lapin
May 25th, 2006, 08:37 PM
Thanks for the article! :)

Allez Amélie!! :yeah:

crazyroberto6767
May 25th, 2006, 09:47 PM
"She earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time last September"
"Serena Williams, the 1999 French champion" (had it right earlier)
:scratch: :p

Besides that, nice article. Good luck Momo :).

new-york
May 25th, 2006, 09:50 PM
"She earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time last September"
"Serena Williams, the 1999 French champion" (had it right earlier)
:scratch: :p

Besides that, nice article. Good luck Momo :).

sometimes they do make big errors.

daktan
May 25th, 2006, 09:51 PM
I like her very much as a tennis player but not as a woman lol.
He is great on the field.

CJ07
May 25th, 2006, 09:53 PM
"She earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time last September"
"Serena Williams, the 1999 French champion" (had it right earlier)
:scratch: :p

Besides that, nice article. Good luck Momo :).
Serena got bageled in the 3rd round that year didn't she? :tape:

crazyroberto6767
May 25th, 2006, 09:59 PM
Serena got bageled in the 3rd round that year didn't she? :tape:
Yeah after handing Mary Joe a breadstick in the second set :lol:

Linnie
May 26th, 2006, 12:04 AM
ALLEZ!

And thanks for posting the article :wavey:

saint
May 26th, 2006, 12:15 AM
I hope she's feeling as relaxed inside as the cool exterior she is portraying.
Good luck Ame

Zauber
May 26th, 2006, 04:10 AM
I think the unbiased favorites would be Mauresmo, Henin and Petrova?
Mauresmo Henin had a bit of a suprising loss while Petrova has won 3 tournaments and a win over Henin.
I am hoping for Clijsters but I think she is definitely below those three. Why?
focus seems to be on boyfriend and getting married and being miss popularity.

anlavalle
May 26th, 2006, 05:59 AM
I like her very much as a tennis player but not as a woman lol.
He is great on the field.

:confused: :rolleyes:

galadriel
May 26th, 2006, 09:12 AM
Thank you CanIgetawhat :kiss:

sapir1434
May 26th, 2006, 10:40 AM
Allez!!!

willrock
May 26th, 2006, 11:00 AM
Plus Amélie has a good draw :)

perseus2006
May 26th, 2006, 12:14 PM
Cake walk to the QF's. Then she has to face Patty or Venus. That will be the end of the line for MoMo.

Marcus1979
May 26th, 2006, 12:27 PM
remember guys

so many times Amelie has lost so often to players that she would not normally lose to

2005: Ana Ivanovic
2004: Elena Dementieva
2002: Paola Suarez
2001: Jana Kandarr

ntorcida
May 26th, 2006, 12:36 PM
I dont think she can win this, for me is Justine and Petrova, then Kim, Kuznetsowa and Martina, and in 3rd row Mauresmo and Venus... That are my favourites :tape:

Hannah-Louise
May 26th, 2006, 12:44 PM
Yea She Can Do It! Allez Amelie!

Veeko
May 26th, 2006, 12:50 PM
Everything is hard to say, Venus Williams is a good player,she will be dangerous player for Momo,and nicole may be a little dangerous,don't forget that she is also a imporving player, hopefully.

champion88
May 26th, 2006, 12:58 PM
I think Momo has a really tough draw

1st round- Shaughnessy can be a dangerous player on her day
2nd round- Dushevina shouldn't be a problem
3rd round- Jankovic is coming back to form and playing good tennis
4th round- Vaidisova is playing well in Istanbul this week and will be confident against Mauresmo
QF- Venus has the hunger and ability to overpower Mauresmo and win the match
SF- Kuznetsova will push her to the limit, and tough to call
F- Henin will maul Momo

so, she has a really tough draw and the pressure can get to her. I wouldn't be surprised to hear she loses to Jankovic/Vaidisova, but I expect Venus to beat her in QF

sperona
May 26th, 2006, 02:44 PM
come on Amé :bounce: point by point, game by game, set by set, and match by match :lick:
as you did in Melbourne :drool:

améliemomo
May 26th, 2006, 02:51 PM
come on Amé :bounce: point by point, game by game, set by set, and match by match :lick:
as you did in Melbourne :drool:

well said sperona :yeah:

amélie 2006: no pressure, only pleasure on court. :angel:

Allez! :bounce:

zibaas
May 26th, 2006, 02:52 PM
Good Luck Momo
i will be cheering for u now

Carmen Mairena
May 26th, 2006, 03:03 PM
It'd be nice to see her winning at home, but I don't think she will. :scratch:

Il Primo!
May 26th, 2006, 03:12 PM
It's always said the same since 2004,it's always the same for 11 years

Sagittarius
May 26th, 2006, 03:15 PM
She'll definitely win it some year, but I don't see her doing it this year.

Il Primo!
May 26th, 2006, 03:20 PM
She'll definitely win it some year, but I don't see her doing it this year.
So when??She's not very fresh..She's almost 27...

akab
May 26th, 2006, 03:42 PM
Thanks for the article CIGaW :) :wavey:
You can do it Amé ! Allez!!

sweet.baby
May 27th, 2006, 12:36 AM
:bounce: Allez Amé Allez!!! :bounce: