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Hingis faces muscular Mauresmo for women's title
Posted: Friday January 29, 1999 10:24 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Amelie Mauresmo's thickly muscled shoulders bulge from her dark blue tank-top, and she struts cockily around court like a weightlifter in the gym.
Women's tennis has seen a lot of talented teens come along in recent years, from Martina Hingis to Venus and Serena Williams to Anna Kournikova, but none is quite like Mauresmo.
The 19-year-old Frenchwoman, who surprisingly has landed in the Australian Open final Saturday against two-time defending champion Hingis, wields a one-handed backhand like Pete Sampras. It's a deep topspin shot that comes off the racket with a thud.
Women's tennis hasn't seen a shot like that since the heyday of Gabriela Sabatini, though the Argentinean didn't hit quite so hard.
No. 1 Lindsay Davenport was stunned by the force of those shots, the last one on match point, in her 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 semifinal loss Thursday.
"I thought I was playing a guy, the girl was hitting it so hard," Davenport said. "She hits the ball not like any other girl."
Davenport wasn't being catty. If anything, she was amazed at the way Mauresmo has taken the women's game to a new level with her sculpted physique and big strokes.
"I take it as a compliment," said Mauresmo, who won the junior Wimbledon and French titles in 1996 but never had gone beyond the third round in the main draw of a major tournament.
Mauresmo pumps iron and works out in the gym three days a week when she's not playing. French tennis federation trainer Christophe Ceccaldi said she's stronger than several men players in her combination of sheer strength, dynamic power and cardiovascular conditioning.
"It's very rare in women players to have all three," Ceccaldi said. "The whole package makes her a top flight athlete."
Mauresmo is proud of her strength and stamina, all designed, she said, so that she can be "the one that stays longer on the court."
But there is more to Mauresmo than muscles. When she plays Hingis, 18, it will be a matchup of teens who know how to think on the court and who are intense competitors.
In her victory over Davenport, Mauresmo showed she can figure out a player's weaknesses, exploit them, make adjustments in her own game and reach down for something extra when the match is on the line.Those are precisely the qualities that define Hingis' game, and the match between them could be memorable.
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