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Sonja
Nov 17th, 2002, 01:00 AM
MIND OVER MUSCLE

When Amélie Mauresmo reached the Australian Open final three years ago, she made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Instead of her tennis, her physique and love life were played out on front pages around the world.

Lyndall Parker talks to the Frenchwoman who has finally found peach with herself and (for the most part) her game.

It’s no secret that Amélie Mauresmo has broad shoulders. Indeed she has needed every inch of them to survive the cruel and catty existence that sometimes is the women’s tour.

Martina Hingis once somewhat foolishly described her as “half a man”, while the not-so-slight Lindsay Davenport likened playing the Frenchwoman to playing against one. The callous remarks have barely stopped since. At Wimbledon, young American Laura Granville spoke of drug rumors surrounding the star and a British scribe unkindly wrote that her shoulders “could bear the weight of a couple of family sized freezers.”

Big they are, but excessive they are not. Remember Gabriela Sabatini? No one dared to question her “macho” physique. While the Argentine produced heavy topspin, she couldn’t propel the ball with anywhere near the speed of Mauresmo.

And that was the problem. While Mauresmo was quick, she was also powerful – and that intimidated her opponents. To her credit, she was also open about her sexuality, preferring to live life outside the closet. In doing so, she was subjected to much scorn, as Martina Navratilova was before her.

However over the years Mauresmo has learned to live with all the hurtful taunts.

“I’m much more at ease with myself, so I’m less affected by remarks people might make,” she told the French Open magazine this year. “I didn’t always react well. Now I even poke fun at it, or at myself, at times, which wasn’t’ always the case. Today I feel more in harmony with myself.”

In regards to her game – which has won her seven titles and more than $3.5 million in prize money – she admits she also privately enjoyed the impression she had made. After all, an Amazon she is not in comparison to others on the tour (Venus is 10 cm taller and over 8 kg heavier, while Davenport has 14 cm and 15 kg on her).

“I was never hitting the ball as hard as Serena and Venus and Lindsay and whoever, but that’s what people were saying because they felt good saying that.” Mauresmo said, “I have my own weapons. It’s power but it’s not only that. I can vary a lot of my weapons, two different backhands with the slice and topspin and sometimes flat. I think my big weapon is not hitting the ball very hard.”

The Frenchwoman has always said her powerful physique was natural and that her gym sessions were purely designed to develop her into “the one that stays out there the longest”. While her heavy groundstrokes are nothing on Venus Williams’, she believes she still has the game to hurt the top seeds.

“My game is coming together, physically I feel great. It’s (a matter of) consistency and confidence, winning a few matches and beating some of the top five players,” said the 23 year old, who started playing tennis when she was four after watching Yannick Noah win the 1983 French Open on television.

“I know if I apply what I know how to do, then I can upset just about any player on the circuit. That’s how I approach it. Depending on the opponent, I mean, if there are major weaknesses that might emerge through the game, then I might change my game plan. Basically I focus on my style of play.

“I want to be No. 1… yes, I believe I can beat anyone.”

While her audacious all-court power may have stunned the tennis world at the Australian Open in 1999, it had seemed she was merely a torchbearer for the likes of Venus, Serena, Jennifer and co. If anything, Mauresmo appeared to have been left in their wake before she staged a stunning reversal of fortunes at Wimbledon – reaching the semi-finals of a major for the first time since charging into the final at Melbourne Park.

“When you reach a Grand Slam final you want to do that again. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m still looking for this. (It’s) disappointing yes, I would like to do better that’s for sure. When you reach a certain level, technically and physically, what makes the difference is somewhere else, in your head,” said Mauresmo, who has been seeing a sports psychologist for a year and a half.

“After Australia I had a little bit more pressure, I got known a little bit more and didn’t handle it. I still had to work a lot on my game and on every part of my game. I think mentally I wasn’t consistent enough in my game to just hope to perform always at the best level.

Maybe it’s strange, but now I think I’m more consistent and I know more what I’m doing. I think when I reached the final in Australia it was more like this (clicks her fingers), all of a sudden you play great and you don’t’ really know why and what you’re doing well and not doing well. I think I know what I’m doing a little bit more.”

“I’m in a different position now. I maybe control my game a little better.”

She showed that with a sensational quarter-final performance against Jennifer Capriati at Wimbledon. Not content to let the American play her own game, Mauresmo attached ferociously under the guidance of new coach Loic Courteau. Women’s tennis had seen nothing like it since Jana Novotna had won Wimbledon four years ago.

However the euphoria was shortlived as she crumbled in the semi-finals against eventual champion Serena Williams. Despite the 6-2, 6-1 scoreline, she said she had “no regrets”.

“She was just playing too well, too good, I could do nothing” she said. The one place she harbors most regret, however, is at Roland Garros. Despite so desperately wanting to succeed on her country’s biggest stage, she admits she finds it easier to play as far away from Paris as possible. She may have never passed the fourth round there but she has had some success, winning the junior title in 1996. In spite of her record, the French adore her as much as Australia does Pat Rafter. Indeed Mauresmo is as popular in France as Mademoiselle Pout herself, Mary Pierce, the 2000 champion.

Last year she even won the spectator award – the Prix du Public for the “best liked” player of the tournament. At the time she was the overwhelming favorite to take home the Suzanne Lenglen trophy having won four out of the six tournaments she played en route to Pairs. With the spotlight on her, she capitulated while trying to become the first French-born champion since Francoise Durr in 1967. Her first round loss to Jana Kandarr was “one of the greatest disappointments”.

“I’m not infallible,” said the 1999 Australian Open finalist. “Last year there was a feeling of powerlessness. I’d never been the favorite in a Grand Slam before, so it was something new to me. But I’m handling the pressure better; my results prove it. I’m also growing up; I’m simply becoming more mature.”

She may have survived her first round encounter against Camille Pin at Roland Garros this year, bit it wasn’t without a “few flashbacks”. She said the win “basically exorcised” what happened. By the fourth round, though, the bubble had burst. Mauresmo admitted she was “stressed” and “unable to relax” against Argentina’s Paola Suarez, ranked 54. “I wasn’t able to loosen up. I had to battle with the weapons that I had at my disposal,” she said with obvious disappointment.

Asked at the time on how she could fix it, she was uncharacteristically scathing.

“Clear my head, have a brain graft. With an empty brain, perhaps it would be better,” she said only half joking.

Former champion and now respected television commentator, Martina Navratilova, said she sympathized with Mauresmo, who was only 19 when she broke through at Melbourne Park.

She’s better than she has shown so far,” Navratilova said. “I think last year’s French Open when she lost in the first round was a real setback for her. But I think she’s got a good coaching situation now, we might see the best of her.”

The nine-time Wimbledon champion said she could draw parallels with her own career.

“When you have so much talent, it’s sort of a lose-lose situation. I had the same thing. ‘How come she doesn’t win more?’ When I finally did, ‘It’s abou titme, she has all this talent’. Either way it can be a negative connotation,” she said.

“But she’s living up to it now, it’s good to see.”

Despite her immense popularity Mauresmo, who has an angel tattooed on her left shoulder, has remained down to earth. Last year she donated her doubles’ winnings at the Italian Open (about $13,000) to a child injured in a car accident in Rome.

Her sole ambition after tennis is to open a sports care in Paris. Which could be fitting, as she may one day need a special place to how off her French Open trophy. And where better than Paris?

Sonja
Nov 17th, 2002, 01:02 AM
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YSL
Nov 17th, 2002, 07:11 PM
Thanks ever so much Sonja! :)

Maurice
Nov 18th, 2002, 05:25 PM
Thanks a lot, Sonja!!!:bounce:

griffin
Nov 18th, 2002, 07:08 PM
{insert bouncing smilie here, as server is not working}sonja rules, sonja rules{insert bouncing smilie here, as server is not working}

Caoimhe
Nov 21st, 2002, 11:11 AM
Ta very much!
"ACE" magazine has an interview with momo and juju. It was supposed to be out on 17th Nov. but the shops don't have it yet.

:sad:

mauresmofan
Nov 22nd, 2002, 03:13 PM
Sonja thanks for posting that article. And yes Myself and Caoimhe are both waiting for Ace magazine. Hopefully it won't be the same recycled article. I need my fix.

Caoimhe
Dec 2nd, 2002, 01:00 PM
Got It!
Will post it here tomorrow!

Lapin
Dec 3rd, 2002, 02:09 AM
......can't wait! :)