Mauresmo’s patience finally rewarded

AMELIE MAURESMO’S Wimbledon triumph was further evidence that all good things come to those who wait.

Wine-loving Mauresmo has been gradually improving with age and ended an eight-year itch with a 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory over French-speaking Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne to become the first Frenchwoman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for 81 years.

Mauresmo, who had been threatening to dominate women’s tennis since reaching the Australian Open final as a teenager in 1999, made the big breakthrough in Melbourne in January this year and, three days after her 27th birthday, she finally managed to win the hearts of the centre-court crowd.

“There were some tough moments but I always thought I could make it,” she said.

“It makes it really special having had to wait so long between my first and second Grand Slam finals and then having two Grand Slams in the same year.

“It is very sweet. Maybe if it came seven years ago it would not have had the same taste. Things come when they have to come.”

She was forced to watch in frustration as a new breed of tennis player, led by Russian sensation Maria Sharapova, burst onto the scene and threatened to ensure the Geneva-based Mauresmo remained the nearly woman.

Written off as a “choker” after losing at the semi-final stage at Wimbledon in three of the previous four years, the suspicions grew when she lost, as the number one seed, in the fourth round at her home Grand Slam at Roland Garros a month ago to 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova.

Despite being ranked number one in the world, the unfancied Mauresmo went into Wimbledon on the back of generous odds of 12-1 but insists she never lost her self-belief and is now relieved to have finally rid herself of the demons.

“It seems I have finally found how to handle the nerves a bit better,” she said. “I really know more now how to play tennis than a few years ago. I think everything is really coming together.”

In a show of confidence, Mauresmo attended the post-match press conference wearing a champions’ T-shirt but she was forced to shake off the blow of losing the opening set to the third-seeded Henin-Hardenne before becoming the first French champion since Suzanne Lenglen won the last of her six titles in 1925.

Henin-Hardenne, who is left still looking to complete a career Grand Slam, went into Saturday’s final on a 17-match winning run encompassing the French Open and Eastbourne titles and admitted that her recent run had taken a heavy toll.

“I played in five of the last six weeks and now I’m very tired,” she said. “I have no regrets, I played generally very good tennis.

“It’s a bit hard to lose in the final here but I played a lot so now I will need a little bit of a break.

“It’s been pretty tough emotionally, maybe more than physically, in these last few weeks.”

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