So much for Amelie Mauresmo's reputation for getting tight and failing to win big matches. Mauresmo rallied from a set down and held firm down the stretch to beat Justine Henin-Hardenne, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday to win the Wimbledon title for her second Grand Slam championship. "I don't want anyone to talk about my nerves anymore," she said.
Mauresmo became the first French women's singles champion at Wimbledon since Suzanne Lenglen won the last of her six titles in 1925.
The top-seeded Mauresmo also stopped No. 3 Henin-Hardenne from completing a career Grand Slam. The Belgian was trying to win the only major title missing from her collection.
It was the second Grand Slam final between the two players this year _ and this time there was an outright winner. Henin-Hardenne retired at 6-1, 2-0 down at the Australian Open in January, handing Mauresmo her first major title.
After Henin-Hardenne hit a forehand into the net on the first match point, Mauresmo dropped to her knees on the grass and buried her face in her hands. After the handshake at the net, she climbed into the stands and shared a long, tearful hug with her coach, Loic Courteau.
Mauresmo received the winner's trophy _ the Venus Rosewater Dish _ from the Duke of Kent and held it high in the air as she received a rousing ovation from the Centre Court crowd.
"It feels great," she told the fans. "I had a great two weeks. I really wanted to win this trophy. It's a great moment for me. This trophy is so special in the world of tennis. I am very proud." Mauresmo won by playing serve-and-volley grass-court tennis. "That's what I did for the whole tournament and it seems to be working really well," she said. "That's what I like to do on grass."
It was by no means a classic final. Both players looked tight. For a while, particularly in the second set, it seemed like a match no one wanted to win.
Henin-Hardenne, winner of five Grand Slam titles, is known as a gritty player who doesn't give much away to her opponents. Mauresmo, on the other hand, has for years been burdened as an underachiever who tenses up and fades at crucial moments.
This time, Henin-Hardenne buckled and Mauresmo didn't falter when the match was on the line.
The Belgian appeared in control after racing through the first set in 30 minutes in aggressive, net-rushing fashion with two breaks of serve. But her game dipped at the start of the second set and Mauresmo moved out to leads of 3-0 and 4-1.
Both players started making ugly errors, including mis-hits landing several feet out of the court. Henin-Hardenne climbed back to 4-3 on serve, but the Frenchwoman broke back with a crosscourt court forehand passing shot. Mauresmo struggled to hold, saving three break points before serving an ace down the middle to close out the set.
Mauresmo broke for 2-1 in the third set and held the rest of the way, winning 16 of 21 points on serve. She had two aces (her seventh and eighth) in serving out the match.
Mauresmo finished with 28 winners and 22 errors, while Henin-Hardenne had a 31-20 ratio.
Mauresmo snapped Henin-Hardenne's 17-match winning streak. Henin-Hardenne had also won 13 consecutive Grand Slam matches without losing a set.
The men's final on Sunday features the matchup everybody in tennis wanted: No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal. Federer, the three-time defending champion, has lost to Nadal in four finals this year. But this match is on grass, and Federer is riding a record 47-match winning streak on the surface. "I know I can beat him," Federer said. "I need to focus on me playing on grass, my style of play, playing aggressive. It's going to be easier on grass to do that than on clay where he can cover much more ground."
The 20-year-old Spaniard beat Federer on clay for the French Open title last month. It's the first time since 1952 that the same players have reached back-to-back finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Federer is bidding to become the third person in the Open era to win four straight Wimbledons, joining Bjorn Borg (five straight from 1976-80) and Pete Sampras (1997-00).
Nadal is bidding to become the first Spaniard to win the title here since Manolo Santana in 1966, and the first player to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year since Borg in 1980.