Originally created 07/08/06

Nerves will play a big part in women's final

WIMBLEDON, England -Thunderclap serves, swing-for-the-backstop forehands and fist-pumping shrieks will be absent from the women's final Saturday at Wimbledon.

With the Williams family missing for the first time in seven years, raw power is out, replaced by feathery volleys, elegant backhands and bountiful butterflies.

Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo bring to the final all-court finesse and a history of edgy nerves. Both expect a fetching final - as long as they can keep their composure.

"That's the key at this stage of a tournament," Henin-Hardenne said Friday. "It's no question really about tennis, it's a question of how you deal with the situation. The nerves are very important.

"Women are more emotional. It's not easy all the time."

Rattled by big occasions early in her career, Henin-Hardenne has coped well enough in recent years to win five major championships, including her third French Open title in June. The Belgian has reached the final in all three Grand Slam events this year, and with a win today, she would become the 10th woman to win all four major titles.

For the top-ranked Mauresmo, pressure remains a problem. To her credit, she admits it.

She wavered in her semifinal victory over Maria Sharapova, blowing a 3-1, 40-love lead in the second set and enduring another lapse leading 4-0 in the third set. She dug in and ended a streak of three consecutive losses in Wimbledon semifinals.

"It's always a learning experience every time you go out on the court," the Frenchwoman said. "I'm trying to learn from the bad moments I had, learn also from the moments where I was able to overcome these moments of tension.

"We're all very different. Justine had very different experiences. She was able much younger than me to control her emotions better."

Mauresmo has been a perennial flop before home-court crowds at the French Open. She won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, but without having to close out the final - Henin-Hardenne retired in the second set, citing an upset stomach from pain medicine she took for a shoulder injury.

Henin-Hardenne's decision to quit annoyed Mauresmo, who considered it unsporting that she was denied a chance to win match point. Their relationship has been strained since.

"I don't pay much attention to that," Henin-Hardenne said. "I play my tennis for myself."

"It doesn't matter for me what happened there," Mauresmo said. "This final is going to be about tennis. That's what I want."

Justine Henin-Hardenne (3)

Right-handed, 24, born in Liege, Belgium, and lives in Monte Carlo, Monaco. ... Has won five Grand Slam titles: 2003, 2005 and 2006 French Opens, 2003 U.S. Open and 2004 Australian Open. ... Superstition is to avoid walking on the tennis court lines between points ... Took up sky diving after winning Olympic gold in 2004 and has jumped more than 20 times.

Amelie Mauresmo (1)

Right-handed, 27, born in St. Germains en Laye, France, and lives in Geneva, Switzerland. ... Won 2006 Australian Open for first Grand Slam title, when final opponent Justine Henin-Hardenne quit in the second set because of an upset stomach. ... Took up tennis at age 3 after watching Yannick Noah win 1983 French Open. ... Has life-size wax figure on display at Grevin Wax Museum in Paris.


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