Sunday, January 29, 2006
French tennis champion Amélie Mauresmo yesterday won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Mauresmo was winning 6-1 2-0 when her opponent, Belgian player Justine Henin-Hardenne, retired, citing a stomach complaint.
After winning a rally in the second game of the second set, Henin-Hardenne approached the umpire and complained of feeling unwell. She then consulted her trainer before returning to the court. After losing two points, she approached the net and told Mauresmo she was too ill to continue, ending the game in 52 minutes.
Henin-Hardenne apologized to her opponent, the tournament organisers and a disappointed crowd of 15,452 people. “I’m feeling very disappointed for sure to end the tournament this way. I am feeling very sick and couldn’t stay longer and continue,” she said.
She later told a press conference that she believed anti-inflammatory medication she had been taking for a shoulder injury had made her feel ill and left her with no energy. “I felt it when I woke up, but I tried. I knew at the beginning of the match that I could not win it,” she said.
Henin-Hardenne’s retirement gave Mauresmo her third victory by default in the tournament. She reached the fourth round after Dutch player Michaella Krajicek retired with heat exhaustion. In the semi-final, Mauresmo was again the beneficiary of a retirement when Belgian player Kim Clijsters retired with an ankle injury.
Until now, 26-year-old Mauresmo was the only former world no.1 to never have won a Grand Slam title. She said in a post-match interview that when she returns home to her base in Geneva, Switzerland, she will toast the win with a bottle of 1937 Château d’Yquem wine which she has been saving to celebrate her first grand slam title.
“I bought a bottle about three or four years ago. Very good one. Very old one also. I keep it. I thought, “You know, this one is going to be for my Grand Slam, my first Grand Slam title,”” she said.
Mauresmo’s win comes seven years after the then unseeded player reached the 1999 Australian Open final, the last time she has reached a Grand Slam final. She lost to Martina Hingis and was berated by the press and several players for her muscular build and for acknowledging her then partner, Sylvie Bourdon, believing if they were open about their relationship, people would be less inclined to gossip. At the time, Lindsay Davenport complained that playing Mauresmo was like playing against a male player. While Martina Hingis accused her of being “half a man.”
Mauresmo is now ranked world no.2 and is the first Frenchwoman to win an Australian Open since Mary Pierce won in 1995. Mauresmo takes home the Australian Open trophy and prize money of $AU1,220,000, while Henin-Hardenne walked away with the runner-up prize money of $AU610,000.