Born on 5 July 1979 in St. Germain en Laye in France, Amelie Mauresmo is the daughter of Francis, an engineer and Francoise Mauresmo. She began playing tennis at the age of four; trained under the auspices of the French Tennis Federation beginning at the age of eleven and debuted on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Circuit in 1993. She turned professional in 1994.
After showing exceptional promise as a junior tennis player, French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo reached the finals of the 1999 Australian Open. At the tournament, Mauresmo came out as a lesbian, which created a media furor which lasted for the next several years. While she continued to improve as a player, she could not win major tournaments. In 2004, Mauresmo reached one goal when she became the first French woman to be a number-one-ranked tennis player. Two years later, she finally won her first grand slam, the Australian Open, then won a second the same year, Wimbledon. Describing her, Stephen Bierley of the Guardian wrote, “Quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous. Of all the leading women tennis players, France’s Amelie Mauresmo is the most complex.”
Born in 1979 in a suburb of Paris, France, Mauresmo was raised in the village of Bornel from the age of one. She became interested in playing tennis when she was four years old when she watched France’s Yannick Noah win the French Open in 1983. Her parents signed her up for lessons and she soon began training with older children. By the age of eight, Mauresmo was playing in a local tennis league.
Because of her promise as a player, Mauresmo trained under the auspices of the French Tennis Federation beginning at the age of eleven. She lived away from her family and focused on tennis at a special school. Mauresmo struggled with the separation and almost quit on several occasions. By 13, still under the French Tennis Federation umbrella, she was being coached with other French junior players by Gail Lovera, a former number-one-ranked player for France. Mauresmo lived in Paris while training with Lovera at the National Institute for Sport and Physical Education. Mauresmo was later coached there by Patrick Simon. The young tennis player had a difficult relationship with them both and struggled under the restrictions of the French Tennis Federation.
In 1993, Mauresmo made her debut on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tour playing at a tournament in Marseille, France. She continued to play on the ITF tour for several years, turning professional in 1994. She won her first professional tournament at an ITF women’s circuit tournament at St. Raphael in France in 1995. Mauresmo also continued to compete in junior tennis tournaments.
Mauresmo blossomed as a young player in 1996. That year, she was given a wild card berth at the French Open. She made it to the second round of the women’s tournament and won the junior women’s title. That same year, Mauresmo won the junior women’s title at Wimbledon as well. The ITF named her the 1996 Junior World Champion.
Mauresmo continued to improve in 1997 despite injuries that plagued her throughout the year. She also won a title on the ITF tour in Greece. Her career took a big step forward in 1998 when she finished the year ranked in the top 30 on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Mauresmo reached her first final in a WTA event, the German Open, that year, having never previously reached the quarterfinals of any WTA tour event.
Late in 1998, Mauresmo left the training and rigid regime of the French Tennis Federation. She did not like the sole focus on tennis and the regulation of her life by the organization. Mauresmo hired her own coach, Christophe Fournerie, who emphasized hitting the gym, bodybuilding, and other different methods of training in addition to tennis. She was also chosen to represent France as a member of the Fed Cup team, chosen by former French tennis star Noah.
Early in 1999, the 19-year-old Mauresmo reached the finals of the Australian Open, losing to Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-3. Mauresmo was unseeded when she began the tournament, and showed rapid improvement with each match. Her play was overshadowed by her announcement during the tournament that she was gay and in a relationship with a woman named Sylvis Bourdan. Mauresmo did not want to hide her sexuality any longer, but she had to deal with Hingis telling the media, as Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated reported, “She’s half a man; she’s here with her girlfriend.”
There was public shock in France since Mauresmo was the first French athlete to ever admit being gay. However, she did not lose any of her endorsements. Mauresmo’s tennis also did not suffer immediately. She was ranked in the top 20 in the WTA after the tournament, and even spent some time in the top ten. She played well the rest of 1999, despite injury problems including a severe ankle sprain and arm injury.
Mauresmo’s injury woes continued in 2000 with back problems, but she continued to succeed on the courts. She reached the finals of several tournaments, including the Italian Open, but fell out of the top ten. Mauresmo tried to find her form again in 2001, winning four tournaments early in the season. She was working with a new coach, Alexia Dechaume-Balleret, who installed a training regime which Mauresmo could embrace. Her tennis improved with more focus to her powerful shots. Mauresmo tried to improve herself mentally as well by working with a sports psychologist for about a year and a half.
These changes did not translate into winning major tournaments for several years. Playing at the French Open was particularly difficult for Mauresmo, whose mental lapses there lead to annual early exits. The problem was not her play but her mind, especially at grand slams. As Leo Schlink wrote in the Advertiser , “Physically Amazonian and able to master virtually every shot, the striking Frenchwoman concedes she will not be able to convert a supreme talent unless she conquers her chronic mental shortcomings.” Despite these problems, Mauresmo was still gaining in maturity as well and gradually seemed more confident and sure of herself over the next few years.
By this time, Mauresmo had two goals: Winning a Grand Slam, ideally the French Open, and being ranked number one in the world. She achieved the latter in 2004, despite personal losses including the death of her father and the end of a romantic relationship with her girlfriend, Pascale Arribe. Mauresmo won the Italian Open as well as a tourna- ment in Berlin that year. Though she lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open and the U.S. Open, and suffered a leg injury and loss at the semifinals of Wimbledon, Mauresmo was ranked number one for the first time on the WTA tour. This marked the first time a French woman was ranked number one. She held this ranking for five weeks beginning in September of 2004. She also won the Tour Championships in November, a big confidence booster.
Mauresmo faced a repeat performance at grand slams in 2005 but kept pushing for victories. Early in 2006, she finally achieved her other goal. She won two grand slams in 2006, beginning with the Australian Open. She won this tournament when Justine Henin-Hardenne was forced to retire due to illness in the second set of the finals. Though the ending of the match was unusual, Mauresmo was happy with the victory. She told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated , “I’m here with the trophy only because I’ve matured. I grew up, and I’ve had lessons from this professional career.”
Mauresmo continued to win on the tour in 2006, including her second grand slam victory at Wimbledon. There, she again defeated Henin-Hardenne, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. In her victory speech, the Independent on Sunday quoted Mauresmo as saying, “I don’t want anybody to talk about my nerves any more.” Mauresmo also reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open, losing to Maria Sharapova badly 6-0, 4-6, 6-0. In 2006, Mauresmo was also ranked number one for much of the year.
After Mauresmo’s tennis career ends, she is considering opening her own café in Paris and working as a bartender at her own bar. Tennis is not her whole life, even while playing on the WTA tour. She told Neil Harman of The Weekend Australian , “Probably what people see of me on the court is not 100 percent the real me. Tennis is not a real world anyway. I am truly myself when I am at home, with people I like: my friends, my family. I am almost me when I am in the tennis, but a few things are different.”