Tennis has always been a passion of mine and watching Steffi Graf and Stefan Edberg in the mid to late 80s convinced me I had a calling and that the WTA tour was mine to own. Unfortunately this was not to happen and like every disgruntled sports person or artist or generally failed dreamer, I have become bitter and highly critical of the performance of those who made it higher than I ever could, especially my fellow country(wo)men.
Since her final in the Australian Open in 1999, the news of her coming out and the jibes she received have all been forgotten and been replaced by what seems to be more founded criticism. Here lies the question: does Amélie Mauresmo have what it takes to win a Grand Slam title? If yes, when is she going to finally show it?
Us French are always very critical. Ask Marie-José Perec, the football team (post 1998 - 2000 high), or really, anyone who has carried the hopes of a nation on their (sometimes frail) shoulders only to be torn apart when those hopes have not been materialised by gold medals or other silverware. Mind you, when you see the treatment poor Paula Radcliffe received from the British after the Athens marathon, I wonder if we're actually THAT harsh...
But anyway! Amélie... Little darling of French tennis now that we're "ok" with her being a lesbian, an icon like we haven't had one since Yannick Noah and maybe Henri Leconte in the early 80's, maybe even since the Musketeers (Lacoste, anyone?) and Suzanne Lenglen before them in the 20's. Try to imagine that... First female tennis player since Suzanne Lenglen to REALLY have the potential to go all the way and go all the way more often than not. Of course, the pressure is on the poor girl and the longer it takes her to win one, the worse it's going to get!
It's not the draw that matters. She's been beaten by much lower-ranking players, even if not often. What Amélie does, is hold just be as good as her ranking is, no more, no less. Her track record in the US Open? 1/4 finals in 2001, 2003 and 2004, 1/2 finals in 2002. It's good, steady, but by no means brilliant.
I'll tell you who IS brilliant, even if inconsistent and certainly no longer at the peak of her tennis abilities: Mary Pierce. She's never been Number 1 (unlike Amélie) but she holds 2 Grand Slam titles and her recent final in Roland Garros was a fantastic achievement from someone nobody longer expected this kind of performance from.
Even now in the US Open she's there, ready to attack every ball she gets, enjoy every point and create a surprise... Amélie rested in between Wimbledon and the US Open, probably desperately looking for a new game plan since the failure of the "Noah Effect" in Roland Garros and her first round match was a nice warm-up.
Will Amélie reach the 1/4 finals? I have no doubt. Will she reach the semis? Well, she might just. Will she win it? I'd love to say yes but probably not. Will she send our hearts racing, make the whole country stand behind her, encourage her and just want to hug her? Probably not. If someone's going to give us the passion... it's going to be Mary.
Oh... And that one is for Suzy...