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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Diamond in the rough

By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo
Mauresmo's win was a shining light in an otherwise drab tournament
Amelie Mauresmo's joyous triumph on Saturday provided a heart-warming end to what was otherwise an uninspiring women's tournament.

Of course, that should be of no interest to the newly-crowned champion, who now holds two Grand Slam titles when many wondered if she would ever even break her duck.

No-one who has witnessed her agonising battles with her mental demons would deny the engaging Frenchwoman her moment in the spotlight.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, widely criticised for retiring when Mauresmo was leading 6-1 2-0 in the Australian Open final, might have made more of her fatigue but to her credit, she paid tribute to the talents of her conqueror.

But the Belgian never hit her peak in an error-strewn final while even Mauresmo only showed flashes of her prodigious grass-court talents, and the final was representative of a strangely unfulfilling tournament.

It began with 2005 champion Venus Williams making a compelling case for equal prize money.

In answer to accusations that they play less tennis so they should be paid accordingly, the women even argued that they would be prepared to play five sets.

Certainly, the Wimbledon committee's stance is beginning to look like the behaviour of a stubborn geriatric who can barely remember what the argument was about in the first place.

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On the evidence of this tournament, the solution is for the committee to cease their outdated stance, not to make matches longer.

Two sets of watching Williams, Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne et al thrashing a hopelessly outclassed opponent is more than enough.

Such one-sided affairs often feature a British player, but of this year's five wild-cards, only Anne Keothavong (ironically the highest-ranked of all) was completely overrun while two even managed to last a round.

As ever, though, the real work starts now.

In fairness to the top women, their tournament traditionally takes flight in the second week of a Grand Slam, but for whatever reason it failed to get off the ground at Wimbledon.

Martina Hingis' early departure at the hands of Ai Sugiyama denied us a chance to see the former champion take on one of the big-hitters - although she had done nothing to suggest that she wouldn't have been overpowered even if she had.

Williams' defeat by Jelena Jankovic was the biggest shock of the fortnight, but even that took place on Court Two while all eyes were on Andre Agassi's last match at SW19 and Andy Murray's demolition of Andy Roddick on Centre.

Kim Clijsters said making friends was more important to her than winning matches and she went out and proved it in her semi-final against Henin-Hardenne.

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The big comeback doesn't look like ending with a fairytale Slam win
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She should be a title contender but suffered yet another early exit at SW19
The world number two extended the hand of friendship to her fellow Belgian by surrendering leads in both sets.

The second semi-final between Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova was full of drama, if not memorable tennis.

Mauresmo might easily have folded when, for the third year in a row, she watched a set and a break advantage slip away in a Wimbledon semi-final.

Instead the world number one provided a moment to savour when she leapt high into the air, punching the air with unconfined joy as victory was sealed.

That, as well as her emotional and potentially career-defining triumph in the final, went a long way to making up for the drab build-up.

Tracy Austin on Wimbledon
08 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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