will mauresmo always be the choker?

Posted on July 3, 2007


That’s the question on most tennis fans’ minds, as they watched last year’s Wimbledon champion, France’s Amelie Mauresmo, succumb to a shocking defeat in the fourth round of the tournament to a Czech teenager.

In a much-interrupted match by London’s soggy and rainy weather, Mauresmo was defeated 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 by the 18-year old rising star Nicole Vaidisova.

Mauresmo had always been known as a choker when it came to crucial moments. That image will no doubt be revived after her loss today, even though she had seemed to manage to overcome that last year by beating the likes of Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin to win at Wimbledon last year.

It’s a real shame for a late-bloomer like Mauresmo, who has only not so long ago shaken off her self-doubt with the Wimbledon and Australian Open wins last year. She had seemed to finally come to terms with her elusive confidence but had had a tough 2007, after an appendix operation. First she exited in the fourth round of the Australian Open, now Wimbledon.

“Everything went wrong, it was a shitty match,” Mauresmo said in a candid assessment of her game.”My serve wasn’t working well and I had some ups and downs throughout the first week. That showed more today because I was playing a better opponent. I have been struggling to get my confidence back – that’s an explanation towards the tennis I produced today. I’m disappointed to lose but especially with the way I wasn’t able to play, that was even more frustrating.”

It’s going to get harder for the almost-28-year old Mauresmo even as she tries to recover and regain her fragile composure, as a new generation of much younger female players wait in the wings.

Her vanquisher today, the blond and photogenic Vaidisova, is already touted as the next Maria Sharapova. Vaidisova is similarly tenacious and shows much self-confidence even when playing against much more experienced and illustrious opponents. The Czech player had beaten Mauresmo just recently in the French Open, reaching its semi-finals. She also made it to the semifinal at the Australian Open and the quarterfinals at the recent French Open, where she lost to Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic herself, was knocked out of this Wimbledon by Marion Bartoli, the 18th seed.

All this drama aside, the men’s second seed Rafael Nadal made a good point about the perils of following tradition at Wimbledon.

Plagued by rain delays on his side of the draw, Nadal might have to play five matches in seven days. Nadal’s third round match against Robin Soderling has been interrupted since Friday, and it could take five days before the outcome is decided. It’s going to be tough for Nadal, even with all his stamina and strength, to be in the best form and have hopes of winning the title if he had to play at that kind of pace.

So it’s understandable when the young Spaniard showed his frustration in a blog, expressing disbelief that Wimbledon officials refused to change the tradition of no matches on the Sunday in the middle of the tournament, even though matches are dreadfully back-logged and Sunday was a perfectly fine day. Tradition is fine and well but the players’ welfare and competitive fairness should undoubtedly play more important factors. It’d be one time tradition can afford to step aside. And till that roof is up in 2009, Wimbledon officials will have to display more flexibility and adaptability, especially acknowledging that tradition is tough to upkeep with the UK’s often unpredictable and rainy weather.