Amelie Mauresmo reached the heights of her game before she retired from tennis in 2009. The climb was a long one for the LGBT History Month 2011 icon for Day 23.
Mauresmo was only four when she picked up her first racket after watching a match between Yannick Noah and Roland Garros. Her parents recognized her natural talent and signed her up for private lessons. The International Tennis Federation named her Junior World Champion after she won both the junior Wimbledon and French Open. She was 17 years old.
Two years into her professional career, in 1999, she came out as a lesbian. In spite of the media storm and hurtful nastiness on the part of some fellow players, Mauresmo did not regret her honesty. Sports journalist Paul Newman wrote that when she returned to Paris after the Australia open, “she attributed her good form in Australia to her girlfriend’s presence. ‘I felt liberated and it showed in my game,’ she said. ‘There are dozens of other players like me who say nothing, are often ill at ease and even unhappy.’”
In spite of a long string of wins and achieving World No. 1 in women’s tennis, Mauresmo found the brass ring just out of reach. Her strong one-handed backhand and skill at the net earned her both championships and admirers, but a grand slam remained elusive until 2006 when she won both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Amelie Mauresmo was, in many ways, too intelligent and sensitive to be a top-class sportswoman. She was an enormous talent, possessing a gloriously natural one-handed backhand which, combined with her athleticism, had singled her out as an outstanding junior, but thereafter life on the tennis circuit too often was an enormous struggle against her nerves…”
The video of Maursemo’s retirement shows the tremendous respect and love Maursemo’s fellow tennis champions had for her.
She’s no doubt gaining more admiration in her post-retirement career. Besides coaching other tennis professionals, she is an Ambassador for Sport for Life Foundation and says of the foundation:
The values that Sport for Life promotes, like passion, respect, integrity, team spirit sense of effort, perseverance, generosity, a healthy lifestyle, as well as humility are the same as those that I share. These values have guided me along my sports career and beyond.
More about Mauresmo
Photo from LGBT History Month