THE WORLD'S top two women players have denied they were talking about anything but tennis when they said Australian Open finalist Amelie Mauresmo was like a man.
The 19-year-old Mauresmo has powerful shoulders and a game to match. She saw off the world No 1, Lindsay Davenport, in the semi-finals on Thursday with a fearsome display of power tennis. She is also openly gay and speaks freely about her relationship with a woman who travels with her on the tour.
But the player was said by her coach to be angered by comments from Davenport and a remark attributed to defending champion Martina Hingis, whom she will play in today's women's final.
Hingis was quoted as saying in a German-language news conference on Thursday: "She travels with her girlfriend. She is half a man." Or in German: "Sie ist ein halber Mann."
Mauresmo's coach, Christophe Fournerie, told Channel Seven television. "She has the feeling that she played really well and she did well, so she's surprised that the number one and the number two in the world could talk about her like that. She thought everyone would talk about her tennis and not her private life. That is a bit surprising for her because she's young."
Hingis and Davenport both said their words had been twisted by the press. Hingis denied she had ever used the "half-man" remark.
"Who would say that?" Hingis said. "She's a girl, she's playing tennis. I have to beat her on court, not somewhere else. She has got a lot of topspin and it's not... that she is a man but she plays like a man. That's what we were saying."
Davenport - who said after being beaten by Mauresmo, "I thought I was playing a guy" - accused reporters of taking her words out of context.
"You guys love to write the worst line possible and you have probably hurt a very nice girl," she told a news conference yesterday.
The row precedes an already intriguing women's final. Mauresmo, the former top-ranked junior who pumps iron to build up her muscles, twice took Hingis to three sets last year. Clearly distressed by the controversy, she avoided camera crews at Melbourne Park yesterday and went to Kooyong, a few miles away.
Hingis and Anna Kournikova took their first Grand Slam title together yesterday when they beat the top seeds, Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva, 7-5, 6-3 in the women's doubles final.
The pair won five successive games from the ninth game of the first set to dominate the middle stages of the match on Melbourne Park's Centre Court. Last year Hingis became only the third woman in history to complete a doubles Grand Slam. She has won the past three Australian Open doubles titles and is aiming for her third successive singles title.
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