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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 July 2006, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Mauresmo clinches Wimbledon title
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Amelie Mauresmo
Mauresmo is the first French women's champion for 81 years
Amelie Mauresmo claimed her first Wimbledon title with a gutsy 2-6 6-3 6-4 win over Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The Frenchwoman won the Australian Open in January after Henin-Hardenne retired in the final, but there was no doubting the legitimacy of her win on Saturday.

She made a terrible start, dropping the first set in 31 minutes, but it was then Henin-Hardenne's turn to falter.

Mauresmo took the final into a decider and despite several nerve-racking moments, held on for an emotional win.

The Frenchwoman, so often accused of choking on the big occasion, dropped to her knees and burst into tears as the reality of her victory sank in.

"I definitely wanted this win today and I don't want anybody to talk about my nerves anymore," she joked in an on-court interview with the BBC.

There's nothing else to say: she was better than me on the day

Justine Henin-Hardenne

"This trophy is so special in the world of tennis and it feels great."

Henin-Hardenne, who was looking to become only the 10th woman in history to win all four Grand Slam titles, paid tribute to her opponent.

"There's nothing else to say: she was better than me on the day and she took her chances," said the 24-year-old.

"I am pretty tired after winning the French Open and Eastbourne but it's been a good few weeks and even here, I had a very good time.

"It's been very positive and I'll be back and get my chance another time."

Mauresmo had shown steely resolve to come through a tight semi-final against Maria Sharapova, but it seemed to have deserted her by the time the final got under way.

She made a hesitant start by dropping serve in the first game and never really recovered during a tense first set.

Henin-Hardenne attacked ruthlessly, winning 13 of 16 points at the net and finishing off a clinical set with an ace.

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With the first set under her belt, and a first Wimbledon title in sight, Henin-Hardenne faltered and Mauresmo seized the moment.

Moving and hitting more freely, she became the aggressor, pinning Henin-Hardenne behind the baseline and forcing her opponent into errors.

But the Frenchwoman, who netted an easy return on a point which would have given her a 5-1 lead, almost threw away her advantage in a tense finale to the set.

Having already allowed Henin-Hardenne to close the gap to 4-3, Mauresmo then had to save three more break points at 5-3 before closing out the set.

The crowd let out a roar, more of relief than excitement, but the tension refused to lift in the deciding set.

Mauresmo established an early lead but it never really looked like being decisive until Henin-Hardenne put a final forehand into the net.

SEE ALSO
Wimbledon final photos
08 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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