Hellish bullying to coaching highs for Mauresmo
THERE was a time when Amelie Mauresmo must have wondered if Melbourne Park was grand slam tennis' version of hell.
One of the most amiable characters on the circuit, the Frenchwoman has enjoyed enormous success at the home of the Australian Open.
But, even allowing for her stellar playing accomplishments and now as coach of surprise semi-finalist Lucas Pouille, she has endured more than her fair share of lashes in Melbourne.
In 1999, Mauresmo was bullied and mocked - by fellow women - because of her playing style and physique.
Lindsay Davenport, then world No.1 and one of Mauresmo's idols, smeared the newcomer by saying she played "like a guy."
To her credit, Davenport later apologised.
Martina Hingis, then world No.2, weighed in with an even more horrendous barb: "She's half a man."
At the time, Mauresmo was just 19.
During the tournament, Mauresmo came out, confirming she was in a relationship with St Tropez bar owner Sylvie Bourdon.
Mauresmo won plenty of kudos for her bravery and honesty, following a pathway which once drew mostly derision and caused sponsors to flee.
Years later, she would say there was nothing brave about the revelation, but she did regret the bluntness of her words at the time.
Seven years later, when she was still privately mocked by some, Mauresmo won the Australian singles crown in hollow circumstance - through no fault of her own.
The silken right-hander won her two biggest matches at the Open via retirements.
Leading Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals, Mauresmo watched on as the Belgian bailed out with an ankle injury.
A sense of compromised victory and stolen glory was palpable as Justine Henin retired 1-6 0-2 in the championship match with gastroenteritis.
Six months later at Wimbledon, Mauresmo beat Henin in a dogged three-setter, effectively validating the authority of the Melbourne Park win.
Since retiring, Mauresmo has enjoyed a spectacular - and understated - career as a coach.
She started with the quirky Michael Llodra, helped Marion Bartoli win Wimbledon and then sat in Andy Murray's corner as the Scot reached major finals.
Along the way, Mauresmo has started a family, simultaneously coaching Murray and the French Fed Cup team.
She was last year appointed French Davis Cup captain as replacement for Yannick Noah.
Mauresmo opted out of the role to collaborate with Pouille.
The first four matches of this season drew defeats.
But, back at Melbourne Park, her magic has kicked in and her new charge is into the semi-finals, where he will face Novak Djokovic.
If Pouille pulls off a miracle, Mauresmo is likely to take little credit, such is her deflective personality.
But Pouille's feats over the past 11 days speak to Mauresmo's quality - two decades after she was pushed to the margins by those who should know better.