And so a question
lingered about Mauresmo, too, as she cut through the Wimbledon draw: Did she
truly have the will to win a Grand Slam final? She toughed out a three-set win
over 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina in the quarterfinals, but in
her semifinal against '04 Wimbledon champ Maria Sharapova, after Mauresmo raced
to a 6--3, 3--1 lead and then held three break points on Sharapova's serve, a
near palpable fear rose off her broad shoulders. Sharapova won four straight
games, and then Mauresmo double-faulted twice in a row. The tension was so
thick that when Mauresmo won the next point, she shrieked in relief. Sharapova
won the second set 6--3, but in the third Mauresmo was a different player,
serving and volleying with ease, stylishly bulldozing Sharapova 6--2. "I
kept fighting," Mauresmo said afterward. "In the third set I could
have--how do you say?--let it go. Didn't happen."
That set up the
second rematch everyone wanted to see at Wimbledon, after Federer-Nadal: a
healthy Henin-Hardenne against the player who was chasing that Grand Slam match
point, that celebration she never experienced in Melbourne. "You win that
last point, it's something you feel," said nine-time Slam doubles champion
Jonas Bjorkman after losing his semifinal match against Federer on Friday.
"I will support Mauresmo because she deserves to win a final where she
actually wins it."
In the end,
appropriately, the women's title match came down to nerve. Stiffening when once
she crumbled, Mauresmo found her game in the second set just as Henin-Hardenne
began shooting wild flares with her forehand. In the third set Mauresmo's first
serve kicked into championship gear, and she rode an early break to a 5--4
lead. She sat through the changeover knowing she had the title on her racket.
But in perhaps the clearest sign of her newfound control over what she calls
"the mental," Mauresmo didn't think of redemption, nor of her mixed
feelings toward Henin-Hardenne. "It's in the past, and it was a totally
different game and environment," she said of Australia. "On D day you
have to perform--whatever happened before, whatever is going to happen
Two aces and a
textbook serve-and-volley got her to match point at 40--30. After a let first
serve, Mauresmo bounced the ball seemingly forever, tossed it up and,
reconsidering the delivery, caught it. Then she served long. She looked
nervous--but wasn't. Mauresmo served again quickly. She and Henin-Hardenne
engaged in a short, unmemorable rally, and the seemingly tougher Belgian
cracked first, pushing a weak forehand into the net. Mauresmo had truly earned
a Grand Slam title, and the one that matters most. She threw up her arms. Her
knees began to give. The racket tumbled from her trembling hands, and she sank,
crying, to her knees.
you play," Mauresmo said afterward. "That's why you practice: because
you dream of that moment. How is it going to be? How am I going to be? And this
adrenaline, this emotion--it's really going through the whole body. It's tough
to put in words the relief, the joy. Because when you think about it, when you
look back, it's this you're going to remember: this moment. And this moment is
How much Nadal
wants this moment, too, was the fortnight's revelation. The winner of a record
60 straight matches on clay and the citizen of Tennis Nation most likely to
say, "Grass is for cows," Nadal stunned everyone with his showing at
Wimbledon. He had played only 16 matches on grass in his life before starting
his 2006 run at the All England Club, but after beating Agassi, he began to
think he could really win it all. Entering the locker room last Friday after
defeating Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus to secure a place in the final, Nadal
realized what he had done and burst into tears.
It wasn't the
only time he would come off a bit overwhelmed, but no one should expect that to
last. He fell on Sunday, hard, but he will get up. "Roger beat me, but it's
O.K.--when I played my best tennis, the match was very close," Nadal said.
"That's good. Because this is his best surface, no?"
In other words,
the hard-court season looms, and at its end comes the U.S. Open in late August.
Federer said on Sunday that he's less interested in playing Nadal again than in
reaching another Grand Slam final, but Nadal wants another crack at the king.
And another. With this one win, Federer has made theirs a real rivalry at
"I am going
to try my best," Nadal said. "But sometimes it's not just tennis, no?
You need belief about victory. Some players, when they play [Roger], they don't
believe. But I believe in victory always. I know it's not impossible."