Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mind Games

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mind Games

Article excerpt


SO the Capriati-Williams Grand Slam axis is rocking.

No one with any other surname has won any of the last eight Grand Slam events. Only three players were thought to be in with a shout for this Wimbledon and now one of them, Jennifer Capriati, is gone.

The question is, can her conqueror Amelie Mauresmo prevent a Williams monopoly of the final by beating Serena in today's semi?

The No9 seed, who turns 23 tomorrow, was on nobody's list of the player most likely to. There could be no better way to celebrate her birthday than to deliver another shock no one saw coming.

Mauresmo has never beaten Serena in four previous attempts, but Capriati at least is convinced she can do it. From the outset of their quarterfinal the Frenchwoman brooked no challenge from her opponent, brushing aside the Australian Open champion 6-3, 6-2, courtesy of "the best tennis Amelie has played in a long, long time" according to Capriati.

"I think she can stop the Williams sisters, sure," said Capriati. "She has a pretty good chance if she plays like she did against me. She did everything great. I've really got to hand it to her. She has never been more consistent.

Usually you can stay in there with her and she will make a few unforced errors, giving you the opportunity. But not this time. She has the talent and power to win a Slam."

Tellingly, Mauresmo's bid is endorsed by the greatest of them all.

"I wouldn't stake my life on Serena being in that final," warned Martina Navratilova, tapping her forehead.

"Amelie is healthy up here. She's got a good coaching situation. She's always had the game and the physique to compete."

Since she burst on to the elite stage by making the 1999 Australian Open final as an unseeded nobody, the mental game has always been Mauresmo's problem. In Melbourne that year nothing was expected of her until she beat world No1 Lindsay Davenport to make the final. She had done the hardest part but could not raise herself again to defeat Martina Hingis. She has not made it beyond the quarters at any Slam since.

But her all-time nadir was at last year's French Open. …

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