Pressure now on Mauresmo for Roland Garros

30th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 29, 2006 (AFP) - Amélie Mauresmo defeated her internal demons in lifting the Australian Open crown on Saturday and now the whole of France is dreaming of similar success at Roland Garros in June.

PARIS, Jan 29, 2006 (AFP) - Amélie Mauresmo defeated her internal demons in lifting the Australian Open crown on Saturday and now the whole of France is dreaming of similar success at Roland Garros in June.

Justine Henin-Hardenne's stomach illness and sore shoulder may have caused her retirement from the final in Melbourne and handed victory to her opponent but that took nothing away from the magnitude of Mauresmo's achievment in the eyes of the French press.

"In winning in Melbourne, Amélie opens the road to Roland Garros," trumpeted Le Parisien on the morning after Mauresmo's finest hour in her professional career.

The 26-year-old finally landed her first Grand Slam title, seven years after her only other final appearance, also in Australia, where she was beaten by the then irrepressible Martina Hingis.

"Mauresmo deserved it," proclaimed L'Equipe, "Welcome to the big world," added Le Journal du Dimanche while Le Parisien summed up the relief felt by one and all by quoting the new champion: "At last, it's done!"

For many, winning any title by default due to an opponent's retirement — in fact, Mauresmo benefited from three such abandonments during the course of the two-week event — may detract a little from the glory of victory.

But not in the French press. As L'Equipe points out, the physical superiority of lasting longer than your opponent is not a fault.

"Despite Justine Henin's retirement, Amélie Mauresmo can be proud of her first Grand Slam title. She did not steal it."

The sports newspaper goes to great lengths to describe how Mauresmo dominated Henin-Hardenne with a game based on heavy topspin.

"Forced to play the majority of her shots at head-height, Justine Henin could only rarely take the initiative," it explained.

"With this solid base, she (Mauresmo) can introduce variations, like all good jazz musicians conducting faultless rhythms."

More significant than her impressive game, though, is the overcoming of her internal demons.

Mauresmo has always had the ability to win a Grand Slam title but time and again she has choked in major competitions, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

But her win at the November Masters in Los Angeles, where she beat compatriot Mary Pierce in the final, and now this success in Australia, has seen Mauresmo shed her previous image in the eyes of the press.

"In claiming her first Grand Slam title, the Frenchwoman has put an end to her doubts," says Le Journal du Dimanche.

"Amélie Mauresmo is no longer a player who loses her way in the big events," adds Le Parisien.

L'Equipe, of course, takes it to another level: "Amélie Mauresmo has exorcised her fears, chased away her demons and can savour her first Grand Slam success, two months after her Masters victory."

Now all eyes will turn, impatiently, to Roland Garros — the French Open — which begins at the end of May and where an expectant French crowd will now, probably more than ever, heap pressure on Mauresmo to deliver them the home champion they crave.

Only then will it be known once and for all if this elegant player has truly shed the doubts that previously blighted her career.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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