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Mauresmo keen to prove her worth

French third seed wants to prove she has it in her to be a Grand Slam winner.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 13:55 IST

French third seed Amelie Mauresmo wants to prove she has finally mastered her brittle temperament in Saturday's Australian Open final against Justine Henin-Hardenne.

While the 26-year-old has always been one of the most physically fit women on the tour, she has earned a reputation as a mentally suspect player who freezes under the spotlight of a big occasion.

Mauresmo acknowledged her reputation as a Grand Slam choker ahead of Saturday's final but said it no longer applied after a breakthrough win at the season-ending WTA Tour Championship, regarded by many as a fifth major.

"I haven't won a big one but I don't really take things like this," she said when asked about the choker tag.

"I don't see things like this because it's very different what I'm living and what I'm going through from what has been written and said on me. I don't really feel this way."

Doubts about Mauresmo's ability under pressure first surfaced when she lost the 1999 final in straight sets to Martina Hingis, who infamously described her opponent as "half man" before the match.

The Frenchwoman, just a teenager at the time, was mentally scarred by the experience and revealed in an interview earlier this month that she still felt wounded by the Hingis insult.

"It is something I will remember all my life because it hurt so much," she said.

Until this week, Mauresmo had not made a Grand Slam final since the 1999 loss, although her ranking remained high as she made regular semi and quarter-final appearances.

She remains the only player to have held the world number one ranking who has not won a major, a situation she hopes to rectify Saturday against a proved big-match performer in four-time Grand Slam winner Henin-Hardenne.

Even now, some commentators have questioned her appearance in the Melbourne Park decider, suggesting she was about to capitulate to Kim Clijsters in a flurry of unforced errors before the Belgian retired hurt from their semi-final on Thursday.

Mauresmo realises the only way to silence the doubters and lay the demons of 1999 to rest is by beating Henin-Hardenne.

"I've been waiting for this for so long," the relieved world number three said after securing a spot in the final.

"For all those years I've been working hard, adjusting a few things here and there to try to do my best ... I just obviously want to give it a hundred percent on Saturday and really try to get that trophy."

She said the major difference from the 19-year-old who tentatively walked onto Rod Laver Arena seven years ago was her mental toughness, which provided the self belief to know she can claim a Grand Slam.

"It's also learning from the tough moments, learning from the experiences you had and maybe the things you didn't do right at the right times," she said.

"Getting some experience in these big matches, I guess that's how you grow up and how you get tougher. You know, some people get it quicker than others. It really depends on your own evolution --I guess that's the way it is."

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 13:55 IST