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Mauresmo inspired by magic of Wimbledon

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2007 02:21 IST
Martyn Herman
Martyn Herman
Reuters
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Twelve months after enchanting Wimbledon's crowds with her flamboyant brilliance, reigning champion Amelie Mauresmo is ready to plug into the All England Club magic once again.

The 27-year-old Frenchwoman was a popular winner last year when she beat Justine Henin to add the Wimbledon crown to the Australian Open title she won earlier in the year when the same opponent retired in the final.

In a sport full of baseline sluggers, Wimbledon crowds embrace style and artistry and Mauresmo fits the bill perfectly with her rapier groundstrokes and graceful movement. She even practises the dying art of serve and volley.

"I definitely feel at ease here," world number four Mauresmo told Reuters on Sunday in an interview arranged by Sony Ericsson ahead of the Eastbourne warm-up event.

"When I walked into Wimbledon again I felt great, the setting, the history and tradition, it lifts my spirit.

"Last year I felt terrible going into the championships and not very positive about my game but when I arrived the tournament inspired me. I guess you could say it's the magic of the place."

Her Wimbledon title last year cemented her name among the game's greats and silenced those who said she had only won the Australian Open by default when Henin quit.

"It was funny last year. People were still doubting, still saying 'can she win a match point?' after Australia, but I knew that I could," she said.

Her victory at the Tour Championships in Los Angeles in 2005 had helped convince her of that, she added.

BIG WEAPON

Apart from winning a diamond racket in Antwerp, this year has been a more difficult one for the former world number one.

She surrendered her Australian Open crown, missed March and April with acute appendicitis and suffered an early French Open defeat after being hampered by a thigh injury.

However, she is relishing the chance to get back into action on her favourite surface.

"I've been proud for a year to be defending champion and it will be even more emotional this time," she told reporters last week after arriving in the country.

"Wimbledon is something I can't really explain, it's special.

"I'm confident that my game can come really quickly on the grass -- and it will have to because I've not had a lot of tennis behind me.

"But there are not many players play like me on the grass so I think it can be a big weapon. The first matches are going to be very important to get things going. Hopefully it will come right at the same time."

The one cloud on the horizon is the small thigh muscle tear that has disrupted her preparation. She hit some balls on a grass court at the British Embassy in Paris last week, and will test her fitness at Eastbourne.

"We took it slowly because it could have gotten worse if we rushed, but I never had any fear that I would miss Wimbledon," she said.

"It would probably mean more to win this season because last year I had already won the Australian Open, it would be a great achievement."

Mauresmo has promised herself another visit to her favourite Geneva wine store if she does do it again.

"Every time I went into the shop I kept looking at a bottle of '21', very old. When I won Wimbledon I ran in there and just bought it," she said. "If I win again I'l find another one for sure."