Au Revoir, Amélie
Published December 03, 2009 12:00
ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France - After one of the most distinguished careers in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history, which included multiple Grand Slam titles and the world No.1 ranking, Amélie Mauresmo has decided to step away from the spotlight, announcing her retirement from tennis Thursday, December 3.
"I don't want to train anymore," a teary-eyed Mauresmo said at the press conference. "I had to make a decision, which became evident in the last few months and weeks. When you grow older, it's more difficult to stay at the top. It's a bit sad, but this is the right decision. I was lucky enough to have an exceptional career and to experience very strong feelings on the court."
Greatness was always in the cards for Mauresmo, who, before turning four years old, saw Yannick Noah win the 1983 French Open on TV, and decided she wanted to play too. She honed her incredible talents - her beautiful one-handed backhand always drawing the most attention, but her crafty all-court game and strong serve also bringing much of her success - and she was already a world-beater in the juniors, taking Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 1996. She was named ITF Junior World Champion that year, as well.
Although she was definitely asserting herself as a future threat on the Tour with some excellent results - her first Tour final at Berlin in 1998 being the most notable of which, especially considering she took out Lindsay Davenport and Jana Novotna, who were both ranked in the Top 3 at the time, along the way - Mauresmo's major breakthrough would come Down Under in 1999.
Unseeded and definitely unheralded, particularly after fighting back from match point down in her first round match, Mauresmo stormed all the way to her first Grand Slam final at the 1999 Australian Open, a run that included a stunner over Davenport in the semifinals. She would finish runner-up to Martina Hingis but from out of nowhere, the Frenchwoman became more than a rising star.
Mauresmo finished seven of eight seasons between 1999 and 2006 inside the Top 10, and although her self-professed best memory came in 2004 - becoming the first French player, male or female, to ascend to No.1 in the world - her best season was 2006, as she won her two Grand Slam titles (the Australian Open and Wimbledon) and spent 34 weeks at No.1 (bringing her career tally to 39).
Also among her many accomplishments during those glory years were a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004 (falling to Justine Henin in the gold medal match) and playing Fed Cup for France for 11 years, most notably helping them win their second Fed Cup championship crown in 2003.
In 2007, Mauresmo lost her place among the upper echelon of women's tennis. Thrown off her rhythm by two lengthy mid-season lay-offs - missing two months after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in March, then another two months with a right adductor strain in the summer - she barely made an impression at the majors, losing before the quarterfinals at the first three and sitting the US Open out. It was her first non-Top 10 season in seven years. She would finish 2008 outside the Top 20 and - despite winning her 25th Tour title on home soil in Paris in February and beating seven Top 10 players throughout the year - ended 2009 outside the Top 20 too (finishing her her career at No.21).
"It became very hard in build-up to the US Open," the 30-year-old said. "If I were able to enter the court, play and shine, of course I could continue, but to achieve this you need to put in such hard work. And I'm not capable of that. I dreamt of this career, I dreamt of winning a Grand Slam title. I lifted trophies in every city in the world and I lived 10 magical and unbelievable years."
Soft-spoken, funny, intelligent, friendly, all class - and oozing with talent from all areas of her game - Mauresmo will most certainly be missed by fans and fellow players alike. Au revoir, Amélie.