LONDON - Twelve months after enchanting Wimbledon's crowds with her flamboyant brilliance, reigning champion Amelie Mauresmo is ready to plug into the All England Club magic once again.
The 27-year-old Frenchwoman was a popular winner last year when she beat Justine Henin to add the Wimbledon crown to the Australian Open title she won earlier in the year when the same opponent retired in the final.
In a sport full of baseline sluggers, Wimbledon crowds embrace style and artistry and Mauresmo fits the bill perfectly with her rapier groundstrokes and graceful movement. She even practises the dying art of serve and volley.
"I definitely feel at ease here," Mauresmo, fourth on the Sony Eriksson WTA Tour rankings, told Reuters on Sunday as she prepared for the Eastbourne warm-up event.
"When I walked into Wimbledon again I felt great, the setting, the history and tradition, it lifts my spirit.
"Last year I felt terrible going into the championships and not very positive about my game, but when I arrived the tournament inspired me. I guess you could say it's the magic of the place."
Her Wimbledon title last year cemented her name among the game's greats and silenced those who said she had only won the Australian Open by default when Henin quit.
"It was funny last year. People were still doubting, still saying 'can she win a match point' after Australia, but I knew that I could," Mauresmo said.
Her victory at the Tour Championships in Los Angeles in 2005 had helped convince her of that, she added. - Reuters