Mauresmo much more at ease at Wimbledon

She has had her ups and downs in 2007. However, during the first week at Wimbledon, fourth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo has played like the defending champion that she is.

Updated: June 30, 2007, 2:26 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- She moved easily among the guests, smiling and shaking hands like a candidate, at stately Cannizaro House.

At Friday's WTA press conference, Amelie Mauresmo said all the right things and even posed for photographs with raffle winners. When it was announced that the year-end championships would be played from 2011-13 in Istanbul, Turkey, she turned to the head of the Turkish Tennis Federation

"I'm not sure I'll be there," she said, amid laughter. "I'll have to get back to you on that."

A week shy of her 28th birthday, Mauresmo -- finally -- seems comfortable in her own skin. For the famously fragile Frenchwoman, both physically and mentally, the All England Club feels like home.

It was here, one year ago, that she was made whole. Mauresmo had won the 2005 year-end event and, to open 2006, her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. But when she managed to beat Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin in testing three-set matches in the semifinals and final, well, Mauresmo found herself in a different place.

After having her appendix removed back in March, she missed more than two months. She lost, predictably, in the third round of the French Open, where the pressure on her is oppressive.

And then she was free. Away from France and headed for the greener pastures of England. She won her first three matches at Eastbourne and pushed Henin hard in the final, losing 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2).

Amelie Mauresmo
AP Photo/Alastair GrantAfter another disappointing French Open, Amelie Mauresmo is enjoying success on the grass.
"Before Eastbourne, I wasn't counting her as one of the possibilities," said ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez. "People are talking about Justine Henin, the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova, you can't count her out."

In a narrow window between weather systems, Mauresmo was the first to finish on Saturday. She waxed Mara Santangelo 6-1, 6-2 in a match that took 57 minutes. It was her 10th consecutive victory here, and she's lost all of 10 games in three matches.

"Overall, I played a good match," Mauresmo said. "It was going-forward-type of tennis. That works for me here."

Mauresmo is playing with a nagging thigh injury, but there were no ill effects apparent against Santangelo. She served well, firing 11 aces and won two-thirds of the points when she worked her way to the net. Facing a break point when she was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set, Mauresmo ran down a drop shot and carved an exquisite backhand volley that curved about a foot over the net and bounced into the doubles alley.

"She looks relaxed and she's playing her best," Fernandez said. "I think grass forces her to play her best tennis."

How's that?

"It forces her to come in, forces her to chip and charge," Fernandez said. "It's hard to come in on the big hitters in the women's game, but she can get away with it here. She's so athletic that when she gets to net she can cover it with her volleys."

Mauresmo is not aggressive by nature; her hobbies are riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, skiing and surfing. She collects (and drinks) fine wine. As Fernandez says, grass forces her to play out of character. And that attack mode plays beautifully into her wide array of shots. She slices when she has to, but moves forward at every opportunity.

"It comes pretty naturally to me," she said. "I don't feel anyone is pushing me forward. It took me awhile to get used to it coming from junior tennis. I wasn't sure what to do -- stay back, go in -- I was kind of in between."

Gradually, she has mastered the surface. According to the odds-makers over here, Mauresmo is only the third favorite, behind Henin and Serena Williams. Does she feel overlooked?

"No, not really," she said. "I'm going through my matches just the way I want to, in a very relaxed and positive way. I'm OK about the way things have been going for now.

"That's what I've always been. To me, it feels like I've always been doing that here at Wimbledon, because the attention is so high at the French Open. To me, it always feels like it's very easy here."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.