Match Point

Ten years ago, Amélie Mauresmo came out of the closet after her breakout run to the finals at the Australian Open. Two Grand Slam titles and several dives in the rankings later, is she putting her formidable backhand to bed forever?



But Mauresmo didn't flinch. She said she was unwilling to expend energy hiding her sexual orientation and felt "sorry" for those who were having a hard time dealing with it. "When the media asks me what's going on in my life, I'm obliged to talk about this because it's part of my life," she told The New York Times . "It's clear that I'm not going to get unanimous support for this. Not everybody is going to be behind my back saying, 'Super.' But no matter what I do, there will always be people against me."

Still, she was stung by the feedback, even if she didn't show it publicly. "At the beginning it was very brutal, hard to take," Mauresmo says now. Coming out also estranged her from her family. But eventually the ice thawed: Mauresmo reconciled with her dad before he died of cancer in 2004, and now her mom, once invisible on the tour, occasionally travels with her to tournaments.

And Mauresmo herself has relaxed. "Maybe my attitude makes people feel more comfortable," she says, but they "act completely normally to me -- we can joke around." While she understands that it takes public figures like her to help end homophobia, like anyone, she wants to be seen in her entirety. "Everyone has their moment to [come out] and then they go beyond this issue. If people say, 'It's great that you are gay,' I say, 'Why?' It's not great or not not great. It's just the way it is."

She is, however, tight-lipped about whom she's dating. Recently she's been linked with Geraldine Filiol, an executive with European sports broadcaster Eurosport, but Mauresmo confirms they're no longer together. She won't go further, though. "I don't want to get into this," she says. When I press her, she cuts off the line of questioning like a crisp volley at the net. "I'm not going to develop on this subject. Sorry."

As the furor over her sexual orientation faded, however, Mauresmo became increasingly dogged by her failures on the tennis court. A powerful player with beautiful strokes and a deft touch, she can also be mentally fragile: She was notorious for tightening up at critical moments in the latter stages of the four Grand Slams, especially in her own backyard at the French Open, where she's never advanced past the quarterfinals in 14 attempts. When she won the 2006 Australian Open, it was her 32nd attempt at a Grand Slam title -- the second-longest wait in the sport's modern era.

At the end of 2007 -- during which she underwent an emergency appendectomy that forced her off the tour for two months, followed by an adductor strain that led to another two-month hiatus -- Mauresmo wasn't sure she could compete with the firepower top players now possess. Her thoughts turned to retirement.

But as she gradually regained her health and confidence this past summer, the idea dissipated. "I think I was wrong," Mauresmo says about quitting. "I think I can still somehow go on the court against these guys and be able to have some good wins out there." Still, 2008 was one of her worst seasons: She failed to win a title for the first time in 10 years.

Even so, with two grand slam titles, 24 career titles, and 39 cumulative weeks at number 1 -- the ninth-best all-time run -- Mauresmo is a shoo-in for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. "On the plaque, I don't think it'll mention that she's gay," veteran tennis commentator Mary Carillo says, noting that the quality of Mauresmo's career stands on its own.

Tags: Sports