Mauresmo turns to Noah for a helping hand

PARIS: World number three Amelie Mauresmo has joined forces with former champion Yannick Noah in a bid to win an elusive grand slam title at the French Open, which starts on Monday. 

Noah was the last Frenchman to win at Roland Garros, in 1983, and also captained his country to victory in the Davis Cup in 1991 and 1995 and the Fed Cup in 1997. 

“We started (working together) two months ago,” Mauresmo said in an interview on Thursday. 

“It’s not a magical solution. There are just little things we want to improve. “It’s exciting, we’re having a great time and hopefully it’s going to pay off, not only for the French Open but also for Wimbledon and the next few tournaments.” 

Mauresmo said she was still working with her coach, Loic Courteau, but was also getting precious advice from Noah. 

The Frenchwoman and a team featuring Courteau and Noah have been working from the start of the week in a small village outside Paris, away from media attention. 

She refused to be too specific when asked about her work with Noah but did say the plan was to stick to the powerful, attacking game that helped her reach the Wimbledon semi-finals twice in the past three years. 

“That’s my game and it can also work on clay,” said Mauresmo. 

Despite having reached the world number one spot last year, the 25-year-old has yet to win one of the four grand slams. 

The athletic Mauresmo was criticised when she became number one, several pundits saying she did not deserve to be there because she had not triumphed in a grand slam. 

“I didn’t really pay attention to that,” she said. 

“I know the work I’ve done. I know what I had to go through to get there. I can assure you I’m really proud of that.” 

The pressure at the French Open has always proved too much for her and her finest performances have come away from home. 

Mauresmo’s best results at Roland Garros have been quarter-final appearances in the last two years. Her fans expected more, especially in 2004 when she was one of the favourites after winning in Berlin and Rome. 

This year an abdominal injury has hampered her preparations and she surprised herself by winning in Rome last week. 

“I didn’t go there feeling I could win the trophy but day after day I felt better,” she said. 

“Perhaps that’s the right recipe for the French Open, just going in there not really knowing what to expect. 

“It’s very open this year,” said Mauresmo.  

“Justine (Henin-Hardenne) dominated the early claycourt season and Patty Schnyder has also been very impressive. She will be one to watch. 

“There are also the Russian players, who are always hungry for victory.” 

Mauresmo, who is happiest away from the spotlight, could not avoid a public appearance on Thursday after signing a lucrative multi-year deal with Reebok. 

The good news, she said, was that rising French teenager Richard Gasquet was also getting his share of attention from the local media. 

“First of all it’s good for him because there were so many expectations for him to do well,” she said. 

“It’s not a bad thing for me either that he gets some of the attention.” – Reuters 

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