PARIS, May 22 (Reuters) Amelie Mauresmo enters her 13th consecutive French Open campaign short of practice and not knowing what to expect from a tournament where she has a record for failing to deliver.
''I have a different vision of Roland Garros this year,'' said the former world number one, whose best results at her home grand slam were two quarter-final appearances in 2003 and 2004.
''It's all blurred because I don't know where I stand.'' Always the local favourite in Paris, where action starts on May 27, Mauresmo has often struggled to live up to the high expectations or adapt her game to the slow surface.This time the athletic 27-year-old has another problem. She has played just three matches on clay, losing two, since returning from a two-month layoff due to appendicitis.
After suffering two early exits, in Berlin and Rome over the past fortnight, she hopes this week's low-key tournament in Strasbourg will give her a chance to get some much needed match play.
''When you are out for a while you just want to get back to your level as quickly as possible and obviously I'm not there yet,'' she admitted after going down to Australia's Samantha Stosur in Rome.
INJURY WORRIES ''I'm a long way from the top players. I'm more at ease on quick surfaces. I know I can adapt my game to clay but having to do it in so little time is a challenge.'' Regarded for years at an under-achiever at major tournaments, Mauresmo proved she possessed a champion's instinct by winning the season-ending WTA Championships in 2005 before going on to claim her first two grand slam titles in 2006 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
But the end of the season was marred by injury worries and matters got worse when she was diagnosed with appendicitis.
''When the doctor told me I needed surgery, it was a real blow,'' said Mauresmo, who had her operation on March 18.
''After that, for two weeks, I couldn't do anything. Usually, even when you're on holidays, you can do a bit of training.
''Eventually we were able to do some physical work but what I need is to play matches. There is some concern about the abdominal area when I serve. This is something we haven't been able to work on a lot.'' Mauresmo is aware that even a morale-boosting win in Strasbourg will not make her a French Open favourite.NOTHING NEW ''It will come back, that's for sure, but when?'' asked her coach, Loic Courteau. ''She entered Wimbledon without a single victory on grass and won it but this is clay and you need matches before you get your confidence back.'' Proving doubters wrong will be nothing new for the resilient Mauresmo, who knows all about ups and downs since bursting on to the scene by reaching the Australian Open final as an unseeded 19-year-old in 1999.
A bright future looked certain for the powerful teenager but she failed to move past the semi-finals of any grand slam in the seven years that followed.Martina Hingis, who beat Mauresmo in Melbourne in 1999, stirred up controversy before that final by saying the Frenchwoman, who had openly professed her homosexuality, played like a man.
Mauresmo, who was not even four when she decided she wanted to play tennis after watching on television when Frenchman Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983, finally silenced her critics with her fantastic run last year.
There is one challenge left for her to play for, however, and that is to shine in front of her home crowd.
She is not expected to this year, which, she said, would take some of the pressure off.
''All eyes will not be on me this time and that could be a positive thing,'' she said.
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