'No magic wand' for Mauresmo in Paris
Amelie Mauresmo has tried to play down the Yannick Noah effect as she sets her sights on breaking her Roland Garros jinx at the French Open, which gets under way on Monday.
Mauresmo, who briefly rose to world number one late last year, has been touted as a potential winner in Paris since she burst on to the scene at the Australian Open in 1999.
But year after year she has failed to deliver, let down by a fragile temperament that has buckled under the weight of expectations.
Thus Noah, the hugely popular winner of the 1983 men’s singles title, has been brought in to sit down with Mauresmo and basically “get her head straight”.
Now known more for his reggae-inspired rock concerts than his tennis skills, the dreadlocked Noah is seen as a master motivator, but Mauresmo insists that there is no quick fix to her shortcomings in Paris.
“There is no magic wand,” said Mauresmo, who is seeded three and has a first-round date against Australia’s Evie Dominikovic.
“It’s nothing extraordinary, it’s about little touches, little details. It’s his personality, his vision of things not just the mental plan but also the game and the physical approach.”
The Mauresmo enigma is just one of many imponderables in what is gearing up to be one of the most open women’s tournaments for years at Roland Garros, although the draw was stripped of one potential winner when 2003 champion Serena Williams pulled out with an ankle injury.
Belgian pair Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, who have both clawed their way back from debilitating injuries in spectacular fashion this year, cannot be ruled out.
Indeed Henin-Hardenne, winner in Paris in 2003, has won her past three tournaments—all on clay—at Charleston, Warsaw and Berlin.
“Everyone knows what happened to me in the past and I don’t want to make the same mistakes again,” said the 23-year-old Henin-Hardenne, who is seeking her fourth grand-slam title in Paris.
“After winning in Berlin, I think it was enough for me, I had to rest, that’s why I didn’t play in Rome.
“It was a good decision. I want to play for a few more years, so I have to think about my calendar and my schedule and the way I work and recover.
“In the future, I am not going to play for more than three weeks in a row.”
Clijsters shrugged off a wrist injury that kept her out for the best part of year and returned to win back-to-back hard-court events in the United States, only to injure her right knee in Berlin two weeks ago.
“The injury was no big deal,” said Clijsters who rates her game at about 80% going into a tournament where she has twice been runner-up.
“It was just a case of bad timing. I will keep doing my splits on court because it’s part of my game and helps me.”
Venus Williams comes into the French Open buoyed by winning the inaugural Istanbul tournament on Saturday with a straight-sets final victory over Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic.
Williams, whose last title came in Warsaw in May 2004, beat the 16-year-old second seed 6-3, 6-2.
World number one Lindsay Davenport is another who scarcely conceals her dislike for the clay surface and she will head to Paris with no great ambitions in what could be her final appearance at the only grand slam event she has not won.
That leaves the Russian armada who were the shock troopers of last year’s tournament when Anastasia Myskina defeated Elena Dementieva in an embarrassingly one-sided final.
Myskina looks unlikely to repeat the dose this year as she has struggled with injuries and loss of form all year and only confirmed late that she would take part at all.
Dementieva is also carrying an injury, while glamour girl Maria Sharapova admits she is still learning how to play on a surface that is not suited to her battering-ram style of play.
Best bet among them could be Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year’s United States Open champion who has been based for years at the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona—the best clay-court school in the world.
Another outsider is Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder, who gradually has honed an effective all-court game on clay that saw her come close to defeating Mauresmo in the final of the Rome Masters last Sunday.—Sapa-AFP