PARIS, France – To describe Amélie Mauresmo as a late bloomer isn’t quite right. She was a two-time junior champion as a teenager, winning the girls’ titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Her all-court game, played with that typical Gallic flourish, were evidence of a preternatural talent and tennis IQ that outmatched her young years.
And yet, when the now 37-year-old Hall of Famer looks back on her legacy, one word seems to define it: Persistence.
“When I was 20 or 22, I thought maybe I could achieve No.1 and win these big trophies,” Mauresmo told WTA Insider at Roland Garros. “But as a little girl I never really expected that. It was a passion. I was lucky to have a gift in that sport. It really brought me everything in my life. But I never really expected that. You can’t, really.”
Last year, Mauresmo was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The two-time major champion and former No.1 was pregnant with her first child last summer and was unable to attend the induction ceremony. But she will make up for lost time this summer, when she makes her way to Newport, Rhode Island for her formal induction, alongside this year’s class of inductees, which includes her long-time rival Justine Henin and Marat Safin.
On Saturday, before the women’s final at Roland Garros, she accepted her Hall of Fame ring in a ceremony on Court Philippe Chatrier. Mauresmo finished her career with 25 WTA singles titles, spent 39 weeks at No.1, and was ranked in the Top 5 for 191 weeks. She represented her country impeccably in international competition as well. She is the winningest player for France in Fed Cup competition, compiling a 30-9 record, and won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. The soft-spoken Frenchwoman admitted it has taken her time to process her Hall of Fame status.
“In France we don’t really have this celebration of former players and accomplishments,” she said. “So at first I needed time to really process what it was, and the people in there, and all the previous inductees. Then I started to really – ‘whoa’ – felt honored and proud to be part of this group.
“The former players that are celebrated there are incredible. To be a part of this group is incredible. I never thought I would achieve this.”
Born in Saint-Germain-En-Laye, which also happens to be Caroline Garcia’s hometown, Mauresmo became the 1st Frenchwoman to reach No.1 in 2004. Though she made her first major final in 1999 at the Australian Open, it took her seven years before she finally broke through to win her first major title, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006. She retired three years later in 2009.
“I don’t know if they are going to see someone who really changed the game,” Mauresmo said, when asked about her legacy in the game. “Maybe [they will see someone who] not change the game but bringing something different to the game. Someone with generosity and emotions and was trying to carry these things around. And perseverance is a very important word in my career. It took me time.”
When asked whether she was conscious of building a legacy during her career, Mauresmo said no. It’s something she regrets.
“Once I stopped I was less selfish in a way,” she said. “I saw it it in a different way, I stepped back and saw how important it would have been to already, while I was still in my career, maybe bring the young ones with me. I did some things but looking back I think I could have done more.”
“I think taking over the Fed Cup captaincy, helping Andy (Murray), talking to players, now I feel like I do it a lot more. And if you don’t do it, it’s kind of wasted. Everything you learned in your career, everything you learned maybe the hard way, you try to give it to others. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. It’s not easy, but you try.”
“I’m happy with everything I’ve done. I’m happy with the choices that I made after I stopped my career. That to me is the most important.”
Congrats, Amelie! #RG16 https://t.co/IivQo7E9Kk
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2016
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.