Today, France’s Amelie Mauresmo demonstrated that writing her tennis obituary might be premature. Mauresmo defeated Russian Elena Dementieva in the finals of the Open GDF Suez in Paris 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 to capture her 25th trophy and her first in two years.
Off the bat, Mauresmo went down a break after netting a volley. Luckily, with a double fault, Mauresmo got a break point and delivered when Dementieva’s backhand crosscourt went long. After the players traded breaks again; at two all, Dementieva secured another break with a forehand crosscourt winner and then consolidated with a love game for 4-2. The next game was pivotal as Mauresmo saved a break point and held for 3-4. As Dementieva served for the set at 5-4, Mauresmo’s versatility, particularly on the backhand, forced errors from her opponent, allowing her to break. The set went to a tiebreak. With a forehand winner, Dementieva had set point; but it vanished when she was unable to pass Mauresmo at net. Subsequently, Amelie, herself, arrived at set point when Dementieva’s crosscourt forehand found the bottom of the net. Then, Amelie handcuffed Elena with a great body serve to wrap up the set after 1 hour and 14 minutes.
With a double fault and a few errors from Dementieva, Mauresmo had the early break in the second set. However, after being ahead 30-0, Amelie made some rare backhand errors to relinquish her lead. After appearing to be on her way to an easy hold at 40-15, Mauresmo misfired on the backhand again and mistimed a ball which ended up going over her racket giving Dementieva the winner and a service break. At 2-5, Mauresmo double faulted to hand Dementieva set point and double faulted anew to gift her the set.
As a player, Dementieva’s greatest virtue is her knack at blocking out the negative: case and point her serve. Thus, the third set would be a battle between Mauresmo’s mental fragility and Dementieva’s psychological firmness. Amelie got off to a great start by breaking Dementieva, then with a couple of forehand winners consolidated for 2-0. With a potent backhand crosscourt, Mauresmo caused Dementieva to hit up and secured a double break advantage for 4-1. With great defense, Dementieva had three chances to get one break back, but with great serves, volleying and backhand winners, Mauresmo held off Dementieva extending her lead to 5-1. After Elena held, Amelie had her first match point but missed a backhand down the line which resulted in deuce. Thereafter, Mauresmo committed a double fault giving Dementieva break point which the Russian converted when Mauresmo’s backhand sailed long. After that debacle, the insurance break came in handy. Mauresmo found her first serve and with a love game closed out the tournament.
Undoubtedly, Amelie is an enigma. Just last week in front of her hometown crowd in Federation Cup, Mauresmo melted under the stress. Moreover, at the French Open, often for Mauresmo, the domestic support has been a hindrance rather than a help. But, at this cozy indoor hardcourt tournament, Mauresmo fed off the energy from her supporters and often spurred them on. With Justine Henin out of circulation, Mauresmo is perhaps the sole female left with a one-handed backhand. If not, certainly the only one deserving of conversation considering the variety, beauty and accuracy with which Mauresmo executes that stroke. Mauresmo’s last title and win over a top ten player was in February 2007 in the finals in Antwerp against Kim Clijsters. So far this year, Mauresmo triumphed over Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals in Brisbane and at this tournament, she vanquished Agnieszka Radwanska world number 9 in the quarterfinals, Jelena Jankovic world number 3 in the semifinals and Dementieva world number 4. In 2008, Mauresmo finished outside the top 20 for the first time since 1998. For lack of a better expression, Mauresmo’s game brings out the beauty of tennis. Let’s hope this victory is not the storm before the calm.