Caroline Wozniacki: “She was a girl who was trained to achieve one goal or another from the start”

From small, thin girl on the Køge Tennis Club courts to world’s best. A weekly schedule, extra training and a family that gambled everything. By Mikkel  Hemmer-Hansen, Jyllands-Posten https://jyllands-posten.dk/protected/premium/sport/ECE9261914/det-var-en-pige-der-blev-traenet-efter-et-eller-andet-maal-helt-fra-starten/

The glass trophy gets a big kiss.

She’s done it before.

Caroline Wozniacki reached 25 tournament wins on the WTA tour when she won the Hong Kong Open in October 2016.

Another achievement for the 26-year-old Dane, who has achieved much in her career: two US Open finals, over 150 million Danish Crowns in prize money, and been number one in the world. That was in 2011, when she won the Danish Sports Name of the Year award.

She’s a success story. But very few know how hard she worked as a child on the courts of the Køge Tennis Club, and how much Caroline and her family have done and sacrificed to go all the way.

Like all other tennis kids at the Køge Tennis Club, Wozniacki began by playing with a big foam-rubber ball because it was easier to hit and not as hard to get over the net.

“Ball play takes up most of the time at that age level. They play with foam-rubber balls and often on the half court. It’s about keeping focus on the play aspect so the children stay motivated. But she quickly went past that level and started playing on the full court,” relates lawyer Helene Treschow, who was children’s coach at the Køge Tennis Club while she studied law and coached Caroline Wozniacki for a short time.

Caroline Wozniacki started playing more and more with regular balls on the full court, both with big brother Patrik and her father Piotr, who began coming more and more often to the club along with her mother Anna. It was a family project.

Sometimes Caroline would hit against a wall that’s still standing today at the club, though it’s now overgrown with weeds. But she often trained with her father.

“When Piotr trained with her, it was more concrete: a basket of balls to the forehand, and a basket of balls to the backhand,” says Helene Treschow.

Caroline improved a lot and began to beat older players. She trained with several teams, both those with older players, and with the boys.

Practising with the club champion

At one point, Piotr turned to the clubs best male player, club champion Peter Buser.

“Piotr himself wasn’t very good at tennis, so he got hold of people who could play with her. Piotr asked me if I would hit with her. I was a kid of twenty, and I could hit the ball a bit harder. She was bloody good already as an 8-year-old. She hit the ball well, she hit it cleanly and hard,” relates Peter Buser.

Also read: Interview with Piotr Wozniacki: “I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself and I regret that”

He describers the whole family as friendly, nice and very ambitious.

“There was a plan. There aren’t many girls of 8 who are set up to play against boys of 20. She was given harder match-ups to get her used to return shots that came with greater pace. There was nothing accidental about it,” says Peter Buser.

The amount of tennis was increased.

“Piotr was always on the court, whether it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. He took her to other countries to play tournaments so she could see what was necessary. They were thinking big already then. A lot of time and money was spent,” says Peter Buser.

Later on, a new coach arrived. It was Jan Hansen, who at that time was part-time coach at Køge Tennis Club.

She always had talent for her two-handed backhand, while the rest of the shots needed more work

“She improved a lot. Apart from the normal training with the club’s coaches, I spent a lot of extra hours with her. She always had talent for her two-handed backhand, while the rest of the shots needed more work,” says Jan Hansen.

During that time, Piotr became more and more interested in coaching.

“He absorbed everything from the coaches she had, and his interest began to grow. He absorbed what he could use, and what he saw that was a good fit for Caroline. We talked a lot about what was best for her,” says Jan Hansen.

Sunday was an off-day

She began to beat senior players already as a 9-year-old.

“The first time she played a senior team match, there wasn’t a T-shirt in her size. On her, it was a tennis dress”

“The first time she played a senior team match, there wasn’t a T-shirt in her size. On her, it was a tennis dress, and she played against players who were almost twice as tall as her,” says Helene Treschow.

The amount of tennis was again increased, and the weekly schedule was systematised.

“Her whole week was planned. She was off every Sunday, and she could play with her friends. She practised tennis and did her homework on the other days. When she was 11, she often trained in the morning before she went to school, and then again in the afternoon after school,” relates Jan Hansen.

Piotr Wozniacki had been a professional football (soccer) player and her mother had a career as a top volleyball player (ed note: volleyball is huge in Poland). That had an influence on the effort and the seriousness.

“They had an idea about what was needed. They both knew that something extraordinary was required to go all the way. Maybe that’s why it was so planned from the beginning. Some may wonder at that approach. They came from Eastern Europe, where it was more structured and tougher, some might think. But it’s what was necessary to get to this level,” says Jan Hansen.

The family went all the way to make Caroline better.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen a lot of good players, but no one who has trained and sacrificed so much for it. It was a girl who who was trained for one goal or another from the start,” says Peter Buser.

Always with a smile

Caroline Wozniacki herself described the period and years at the Køge Tennis Club like this:

“I often think back to when I was 10-11, and my dad and I drove out to the Køge Tennis Club at 10 in the evening because the courts were busy until then. I’d trained at 6 AM there, and we went out there late in the evening to train some more,” said Caroline Wozniacki to Jyllands-Posten in 2015.

All agree that it was tough on Caroline. But was it too much?

“I never saw a girl who looked sad. She always had a smile on her lips. There’s a lot of talk about how Piotr was a hard man, and he was, but she always seemed happy. I never experience her being forced to play against her will. And they still have a good relationship. He’s still her coach,” says Peter Buser.

Jan Hansen is of the same opinion.

“She loved tennis and she was always happy and positive. She quickly got ambitions because she realised she was good. There were times it was tough for her, no doubt about it. Who wouldn’t feel it was tough while training six days a week? Sometimes her father encouraged her to train. But the vast majority of the time she just trained and loved it,” says Jan Hansen.

At the age of 11, Caroline Wozniacki became senior club champion at the Køge Tennis Club, and a few months later, she shifted to Farum.

“There were better training facilities at the Elite Centre in Farum, and more good players. The family invested so much in her that they moved with her. They lived in Herfølge, but it was too long a drive to training, so they got an apartment in Farum,” says Jan Hansen.

It picked up speed from there, and she became Danish champion at 14, and declared in an interview after that her goal “was to become number one, the world’s best.”

Non of those three coaches have experienced anything similar either before or after.

“What happened then was completely unique. I’ve been a top 10 player in Denmark and seen a lot of talents, and I’ve coached a lot of talented players, but I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen anyone spend so much time on it. What they did during those years was completely unique,” says Helen Treschow.

Do you think another player from Denmark will come along with the same level as Wozniacki?

“I hope so, but I don’t think so. That’s why we need to appreciate her. She’ll be gone in one or two years, and there’ll be a huge hole in Danish tennis,” says Jan Hansen.

 

Translated by MAN

 

“A rather unique style.” Michael Chang on Kei Nishikori, interviewed by @FranckRamella of l’Équipe

Translation of the print version of this article (paywall) by @franckramella in the print version of l’Équipe, 18 November 2016, page 29.

 

With his game, I bring the small things. I started with the serve

How would you define your role with Kei?

It’s of course a combination of everything. On the physical side, I don’t involve myself in his training sessions,  but he trains with my old trainer. And we’re starting to see the effects. The improvements are pretty obvious this year, I think. With his game, I bring the small things. I started with the serve. When we started in 2013, Kai was making more double faults than aces. about 150 doubles and 140 aces. It was obviously something he needed to work on. In 2014, he got down to 140 doubles, but something like 290 aces. The idea is to make a more complete player. I think he’s become a good volleyer too.

 

he’s a real fashion victim. I’d say he has a rather unique style. Check out his shoes …

Nishikori gives the impression of being a very shy player who goes almost unnoticed.

That’s because you don’t see everything. We often see him in his tennis kit. But when he dresses in his city clothes, he’s a real fashion victim. I’d say he has a rather unique style. Check out his shoes …

 

He’s not someone who wants to go out clubbing. That’s not his nature. He wants to do things that are good for his tennis.


Dante Bottini [his second coach who’s been with him since the beginning] told us once that he’s quite guarded and he was occasionally difficult to decode.

That’s possibly one of my advantages with him.  My Asian culture [he’s American but born of Chinese parents] means that I can sense certain things. An Asian will often be reserved. You need to feel the tone, understand when he’s ready to give more of himself. Kei isn’t one who often speaks up compared to other players. But it’s OK, he gives his opinions. We’ve been together for almost three years. We understand each other better. We don’t see each other especially often at tournaments, but when he comes to train in California, he sometimes spends a few days at the house. He’s reserved but I see him being talkative with his Japanese friends. He’s not someone who wants to go out clubbing. That’s not his nature. He wants to do things that are good for his tennis. He works a lot.


So he’s a coach’s dream, then?

I’d still like him to be more demonstrative on court, to be more excited when he hits a big shot. But OK, everyone has their own personality. It would be wrong to try and change it.


One doesn’t get the impression that he might one day serve underhanded to confuse an opponent …

Maybe because he has more power than me [laughs]. It’s true that you also need to be aware of what’s happening on the court, to try different things. We’re working on that with Kei.


Do you feel the pressure from Japan with the huge excitement there about Nishikori?

Honestly, no. God has made each one of us unique. Wondering about what others think of us is a useless distraction.


You’re very religious. Do you share that faith with Nishikori?

No, he’s not a Christian. He doesn’t understand much about that. I tell him about the concepts of sharing and the prayers we have for him.


And how does he resist the pressure from his country?

Pretty well. He learned a lot after his US Open final in 2014. He was already known, but he got even bigger. He has lucky in not spending a lot of time in Japan by living in the United States. If not, it would be a totally different story. I just tell him that knowing how to manage the pressure is one of the marks of the greats.

 

 
Translated by Mark Alan Nixon

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga : Having a child reverses your priorities. Interview by @david_loriot of l’Équipe

Translation of the interview by David Loriot @david_loriot in the November 1 edition of l’Équipe on pages 14-15. A shortened version is online (subscribers only) at the Équipe web site .

 

A finalist Sunday in Vienna against Andy Murray, the Frenchman arrived in Paris beaming. His body feels good, his game is consitent, and a happy event is awaiting him as he’ll become a father next spring.

In the Pullman Hotel in Bercy, a few steps from the hall where he will begin his Paris Masters 1000, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is wearing a frank and warm smile. Yet, 2016 hasn’t really smiled at him up to now: not one title in his basket, one Masters since 2010, a knee that bothered him all of the spring and summer, or almost, retirements at Roland Garros and at the US Open, a withdrawal from the Davis Cup semi-final … in short, a bland season where the thirty-one-year old Le Mans native bounced between doubts and frustration.

But now! A warm wind has seems finally to be blowing his way. At Shanghai, and especially in Vienna, the 13th ranked player in the world has just put back-to-back tournaments together without the least physical worry! It’s bold to expect him to tumble in Paris after an Austrian final against the monster of the moment, Andy Murray. Andy, the big chief, who even flew his worthy opponent to Paris in a private plane Sunday evening! A good thing rarely comes alone, and it’s not just tennis that is going well for JWT. His partner, Noura, is pregnant, and Tsonga is convinced that his coming fatherhood, forecast for the spring, will make him stronger in 2017.


What feelings does this fragile 2016 leave you with, going between recurrent knee worries, doubts and frustrations?

— It was an eventful and difficult season. I went through quite a few different states of mind to sum up. On the emotional level, this year was a bit one to forget because nothing turned out well. I chose in February to travel to South America where I’d never been. It was on clay, and I told myself that it could be a good idea. But it took a lot of energy and it drained me a bit mentally, partly because I didn’t win many matches (one in two tournaments) and my knee started hurting there. Everything after was dictated by that. I had to retire at Roland Garros, I retired at the US Open, I didn’t play the Davis Cup semi-final when the mood on the team was fabulous and I’d never experienced a Davis Cup like that before! All that was very frustrating for me.


How do you manage a season with a knee that’s permanently painful?

— It’s complicated. I was going to tournaments telling myself, “I’ll do what I can with what I have”. The doctors were telling me: “We don’t think that it will get better because your knee is structurally damaged. You need to manage it.” It wasn’t easy.


But it will be like that until the end of your career?

— Actually, yes and no. Last week in Vienna and a bit before, in Shanghai, there was an improvement. In Vienna I put together five matches without the least bit of pain. The last time that happened to me was in Toronto in 2014 (his second Masters 1000 title), and that year was the only time that happened! Before that, I don’t even know how far back I need to go.


You just been through a blessed week!

— In terms of feelings, of game level, it was the best week of the year. Physically, it’s a super positive week. It gives me a bit of hope and mentally it’s bloody good. I told myself, “it’s not over yet”. The more you hurt, the more you feel your objectives are moving farther away. But when you have two, three weeks like the last one, I tell myself I’ll see my objectives again.


What is your objective for this Paris Masters 1000?

— I hope for the best (smiles)! But we’ll start by concentrating on the first match and the first guy I meet (Albert Ramos, winner yesterday evening over Stéphane Robert).


The London World Tour Final, which you could qualify for by winning Paris, is it in a corner of your mind?

— I’m really not thinking about it at all, because it doesn’t only depend on me. In my head, the objective is to really take advantage of this tournament. With more maturity, I’m noticing that all events are important to me. When I play in a tournament, I want to win. I don’t do it to climb five spots in the rankings.


That’s almost swimming against the current. Generally, it’s when you’re a young lion that you want to win everything. Then, with experience, you make choices, no?

— I had a brief period where only certain tournaments interested me. It’s as if tennis has become even more attractive to my eyes, and suddenly I’m hungry for wins. I’ve created an environment around me now, personnel, technical, that makes me feel better.


You mentioned recently your sinus operation and dental surgery, small things that have echoed visibly and well on your physical health. What role did it play?

— First of all, the sinus operation was necessary for my general health. I had infected sinuses which could affect my joints and especially my tendons. It was important to have the operation under local anaesthetic to reduce the inflammation. In any case, it’s a door that’s been closed, and all the doors I can close on my way is good for my performance. It’s sort of like erasing all the errors so the copy can be as good as possible.


If the body holds up, 2017 can be a good year for Tsonga?

— It will be an interesting year in any case, and I hope I can go into it by having the best prep ever! And the year 2017 will also be different because Noura (his partner) is pregnant and I’m going to be a dad with a little baby! I’m very family oriented; I need that and it could be a motor. But I’ll need to manage my calendar and my season.

That’s great news, and not trivial for the course of a career. Did it make you get perspective and change your priorities?

— Of course. Having a child reverses certain priorities. It’s about turning all that into a positive. I’m almost convinced it will be something very positive and that it will make me want even more to do well.

But you won’t be tempted to give up certain tournaments to stay with your partner and child?

— Absolutely! That’s not a maybe, it’s a certainty. What’s also a certainty is that it won’t cause a dip in my desire in the tournaments I do play. Both are vital for me. Having a child is something I’ve always wanted.

Do you think you’ll be a better tennis player being a family father?

— I think so, yes. In any case, since I learned about it, I have the feeling things are going in the right direction. When you start your career, it’s often only tennis that counts. But with maturity you notice that life is filled with nice things, and it’s not only victories that come above everything. For me, well-being is primary. Sure, sometimes well-being comes through a win, but also through news like this.


You were talking about your frustration with the Davis Cup semi-final withdrawal. Gaël Monfils didn’t play that semi-final either after leaving the team at the last minute. What are your thoughts on all that?

— I must admit I really don’t want to talk about it. My opinion is of little value. With that sort of thing, each thinks his own thoughts. Every individual is different, and you can’t fit everyone in the same box. Some fit, others a bit less. The goal is to arrange things so everyone is there one day.


And you’ll be on this team for the first meeting in Japan next February?

— Next year will be very particular for me because of the birth. Obviously I won’t be able to have a year where I won’t be with Noura, leaving her to manage everything alone.


So it’s a meeting you’ll be missing?

— Honestly, I have no idea right now. I need to talk with Yann (Noah).


A body that’s fit, a game that’s improving, a child coming: you’re a happy man right now?

— Yes. All in all, I’ve always been. But today you can say I’m satisfied. Nothing in my life is difficult except, perhaps, the quest for the Grail (a Slam win) But it’s so much pleasure at the same time. I’m a bit of a masochist, taking pleasure in hurting myself!


When you played Andy Murray in the final the day before yesterday, did that let you realize what you’re missing to be a rival to the very best in the world?

— I need matches against them. Playing them more regularly would be value added for me. You play on confidence. The fact that I grabbed onto him in the second set by having a super game level encouraged me for the next time. It allows me to have more certainty when I arrive at those type of matches and to eventually turning the corner.


Where are you in your search for a super advisor to strengthen your technical staff? Gustavo Kuertin was mentioned at one time …

— He was very busy. It was very complicated and it wasn’t really a good fit with what I was looking for. But the search still interests me. But it’s not an easy thing. I need to relate on a very basic, human level above all. I’m a competitor, but I need to nourish myself with solid human relationships and when I don’t have that, I have problems bonding.


Is finding the right person for 2017 a priority?

— I’m not putting any deadline on that. Now, I have the impression I have a good dynamic and I’m not going to break it for something I’m not totally convinced of. The best players in the world have one thing in common, and that’s that they all believe in what they’re doing. And the goal for me is being in that state of mind and believing 100% in what I’m doing.

 

Translated by MAN

In the Players’ Lounge in Toronto, by @QuentinMoynet of l’Équipe

Translation of the article Salon de recréation by Quentin Moynet in l’Équipe of July 30, 2016, page 25.

The Players’ Lounge – Toronto

The players’ lounge is a separate part of tennis players’ lives, where they’re pampered. We spent a few minutes in the one in Toronto.

‘When will Mr. Anderson’s hairdresser arrive?’ Seated behind a desk, the volunteer notes down the South African’s appointment. The notebook is full. The hairdressing service is one of the most used by the players, along with massage. All these requests are made in the Players’ Lounge, an essential part of every tournament on the professional tours. Some spend several hours a day there, others content themselves with passing through on the way to the dressing room. In Toronto, organisation members are there from  7 AM to Midnight to answer all the requests of the players, their staffs and families.

At the entrance, to giant security men only allow through those with the right letters on their accreditation. “M” for the media isn’t one of them. “You must be accompanied by an ATP member to enter and to leave,” we’re told.

Escorted by an “A” letter, we find a small Ali Baba’s cave. Several newspapers, both foreign and domestic, lie on a table. Julien Benneteau glances at them, but doesn’t appear to see anything he wants. Beside it, there’s a corner with sweets, and cupcakes decorated with Canadian flag frosting. ‘Those are dangerous,’ says a coach, smiling. ‘A bit won’t hurt,’ says the barmaid, who serves tea, energy drinks, but also alcohol.

Life in the players’ lounge is permanently accompanied by the clicking of a ping-pong ball. The table is much more popular than the pool table a few metres farther along. “Most don’t know how to play pool. They’d bury the cue tip into the felt,” murmors the ATP official who is escorting us. It’s different with a racquet. The young Canadians Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Benjamin Sigouin play matches and exchange bursts of laughter. “They never stop, they’re tireless,” whispers our escort. “You can see they’re still kids. Félix is only fifteen!” Then Nick Kyrgios arrives. The Australian grabs a racquet and imitates players. ‘Here I’m Roddick!’ From a seat in front of him, the Czech Radek Stepanek says to him, ‘why don’t you put as much intensity into it on the court? You’d have better results!’ Kyrgios stops, smiles, then continues.

Further away, some players are sitting comfortably on the large sofas at the end of the room, watching the matches on the television. In a few minutes or a few hours, the break will end and it will be their turn on the court. Perhaps with a new haircut.
Translated by MAN

Stan Wawrinka in l’Équipe talks about his thoughts during and after his 2015 RG final against Djokovic

Translation of this article from l’Équipe web site, page 24-25 in the print edition of Saturday, 21 May.
First game – Djokovic 0-0 Wawrinka

The first game, it’s serious. We went right at it. To me, it was important. I was super nervous before the match, I had a lot of doubts: ‘Everyone says he’s unplayable. What’s going to happen?’ Once I was on the court, during the warm-up, I tried to take advantage of the situation. I told myself several times: ‘Stan, you’re in the final at Roland-Garros. How often have you dreamed of this? Look at the stadium, look at what’s happening!” In fact, I looked at it as if I were almost having an out-of-body experience. ‘Come on, enjoy! Do your thing!’ I listen to the announcer who’s reading out all of Djokovic’s accomplishments, I look at the crowd to see if they applaud, I look at the sky because it’s a beautiful day …

I sit down on my chair and I switch in a second. It’s easy for me: I can have ten million things going on in my head, but I can switch and concentrate in a second. I’ve done it lots of times. In my chair, I’m already in the first game: ‘How are you going to serve the first point? Are you going to let loose right away? etc.’

I have a very clear game plan, but it’s open to modification. I knew that with him there was no feeling-out round. The proof is the first game. I play incredibly, and yet I’m on serve. Djoko is a machine and the motor is already running.

But, at the end of the first game, everything’s good mentally; physically, I’m fine and I’m not going to lose because of my level of game. It will be played on nerves, hesitations, but not on game feelings. From the very first hit, I feel on top. It’s good, the final has begun …

Djokovic 5-4 Wawrinka – last game of the first set

It’s a key moment. Novak broke me quickly because I was too hesitant. Actually, I haven’t let loose, really get inside him. I have a little mental block. When you’re behind in the score, when you’ve been broken , you always play a bit tighter. You look for something to come back with. But at 5-4, 40-15, I make two points that are essential to the story of the final. First, I make a passing shot. Then I win a point on a dropper. I end up losing the game, and then everything changed for me in my head, but I don’t know why. I feel I’m on the way, I’m there mentally. I needed some sort of small trigger to let loose. I found it there. The match really starts here. It was that game that gave me confidence for the rest ot it. Why? Because I did what I wanted to do at the start of the match. I want to push him, push him, and if he’s stronger than me, good on him. But I tell myself, I’m going to go and get this match. That’s how a lost game can be a release.

Djokovic 6-4 3-4 Wawrinka – at 4-3 in the second set

When I hit the net twice with my racquet, it was the only time I felt frustrated during this final. Why then? Because I’m ahead 4-3, and that since the start of the second set, I feel I have chances to move ahead. And I don’t do it. On the second dropshot, I’m upset because I can’t miss a shot like that when I’m on it. ‘Shit, you’re screwing up, don’t miss shots like that!’

From the start of the second set, I sense him starting to hesitate. If he’s hitting dropshots like that, it’s because he’s not finding answers from the baseline. He’s starting to back up on long rallies. At the start, each tried to impose themselves from the baseline. But I start to hit so hard and heavy that he doesn’t quite know what to do from the baseline. In fact, he’s being dominated, and he needs to change something. That’s true of all players who feel they’re being dominated. So, in the second set, he starts to hit dropshots. In the fourth, he’ll serve-and-volley to save break points.

Sure, I see that as something difficult, but against Djokovic, you always walk a fine line. What I mean to say is, Djokovic is different: even when he isn’t playing as well as usual, he’s always present in the moment. That’s why he’s better than anyone else in the world.

Djokovic 6-4 4-5 Wawrinka – final game of the second set

The sound my shots are making is huge. I’m playing with incredible pace. I saw the speed of my baseline shots: 145 kph, 150 kph, 160 kph … The set point, against a lot of players, I win it five times. But he’s getting all my shots back. At the end of the game, I’m at the point I was looking for: I managed to get ahead. I sense he’s nervous, but I’m not surprised: when I play well, I know I make him nervous. I’ve felt that before at the Australian and US Opens. He can’t be serene; after that game, he knows that I can be the stronger one. But it’s not the turning point of the match. Against him, as long as you haven’t won the final point, there’s no turning point in the strict sense.

That gesture to Magnus where I tap my forefinger on my temple, at the end, that’s just a natural gesture. It just means, “I’m there, I know exactly what I’m doing, I won’t let up mentally.”

Djokovic 6-4 4-6 2-3 — Third set break and the the famous backhand hole shot

At 3-2 in the 3rd set, I hit a huge forehand and a backhand down the line. I start to really open the throttle. On top of that, Novak looks at his team with the air of someone asking, “What do you want me to do?” Later at 5-2, there’s the famous backhand from the corner … I say with all humility, it’s not an unlikely shot. After all, I’m four in the world, I’m the final at Roland, which means I’m playing very well. I see the hole and I go for it. I’m very far from the ball, but I control my slide really well to take the ball really low. It wasn’t lucky, I hit it to make it. Besides, three weeks later at Wimbledon against Verdasco, I did it again.

It’s obvious now, I’m bringing the juice. But, before that hole shot, how many shots was I hitting in that zone at 150 kph? And then, the better you feel the more the ball gets close to the lines. It stays inside the court for a good reason: there’s no hesitation. Now I’m really on top of what I can do. That final, it’s the best match I’ve ever played in my career. I feel like a steamroller that wants to finish the job. Once you release the brakes, once you step on the accelerator you just play. I mean, you play the tennis you know how to play.

Djokovic 6-4 4-6 3-6 3-1 Wawrinka — the break back

I win the second set 6-4, the third set 6-3, and yet I’m behind 3-0 in the 4th! I said it before: against him, you walk a fine line. Instead of going down a level, he adds a level. But he submits anyway. You can hear it in his grunt.  It’s not the same grunt as when he controls a point. The long thirty-shot rally, it’s to show him that I’m not letting up. I feel him tamed physically. His grunt is different – he’s trying to put extra into his shots. Winning that point makes me stronger. I want absolutely to stay in contact in the 4th set.

Djokovic 6-4 4-6 6-3 4-5 – the final game

I’m still on top, but I’m fried. There are long rallies, we hit, we hit, we hit … he starts to serve-and-volley, he’s at the net more often and I hit a passing shot to break him. I make a simple gesture, and in a half-second I’m already in my next service game. I’m very calm. I walk calmly to my seat. No need for a ‘come on’. After, it’s the last game … I’m serving for the match. And when I need to save a break-point, I don’t panic. I tell myself, ‘If that’s the score, it’s because you’re playing better than he is. At the worst, it’s 5-5. And so? Well, we’ll just start over.’ That frame of mind makes the difference. That detail is probably what bests sums up my final. I couldn’t have had a nicer match point to win Roland. Big serve outside, backhand down the line: that point sums up my whole game and the whole 15 days.

Djokovic 6-4 4-6 63 6-4 – The joy and the ceremony

Already before the Melbourne final, I asked myself what I’d do if I won. Roll around on the ground? Lie on the ground? Fall to my knees? And I did nothing. Afterwards, Gaël told me, ‘Shit, Stan! I was waiting for you to do something nuts and you did nothing. I’m crushed!’ I’ll never have an answer, but I think it’s just the way I am. My joy is enormous, but it’s internal. You can’t imagine it, but there are so many things going through my head … It doesn’t come out. And I would dream of rolling around on the clay and having a mythical photo taken. But that’s the way it goes … It’s not because of the way I was brought up, but because of the way I learned my tennis. I never dreamed of winning a Slam. Because I never though I was as good as those who were there. I saw them all on the TV. To me, those who win Slams are monsters. I have a lot of emotions during the ceremony, but it’s the same thing, I don’t show them. Maybe except for when I lift the trophy. Because, still, it’s THE moment.

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Toni Nadal, interviewed in l’Équipe by @djub22, on why he’s worried about the direction modern tennis is taking

From this article online at l’Équipe Julien Reboullet.

Does today’s tennis, the game you see while travelling around the world with your nephew, please you?

–- In general, not very much. I like games of strategy, of skill, not a game for the game’s sake. I like when there’s thought. Thinking a bit, that counts, no?

You think there’s too much hitting?

– In contemporary tennis, we had a long period with a Roger Federer as the best in the world, of course. A fantastic technician. But there’s recently been an evolution towards a very quick game without strategy, where it’s boom boom boom on every point. Today, clay specialists are considered labourers who push the ball back. Then, on the other hand, we have those who just hit shots. But a game that just consists of hitting, that’s baseball!

Isn’t that just an evolution that suits the times?

– I’ve read some books about the civilisation of spectacle. The role of sports in our epoch can’t be compared with its role in Antiquity. Those who attended the Academy (the school of philosophy found by Plato in Athens in the 4th century AD . Ed) understood sports in a very clear manner: physical activity complemented intellectual activity. It developed certain positive aspects of character like effort, discipline, strategy. All that differentiates us from animals, no? Today our sport is moving away from all that.

But why?

– My view is that perhaps the bosses don’t decide who’ll win or be number one, but at least the type of game that will dominate. The rules imposed give direction to the game.

Tennis may have a rule problem?

– The rules of many sports have changed because the size of the athletes has changed, or their power, or their equipment. But I haven’t seen change in tennis. Since the introduction of the tie-break in the 1970’s, I haven’t seen any. The physiques of the players now is nothing like it was twenty years ago. Neither is their equipment. The training intensity is nothing like it was, neither is the professionalism. But the bosses have kept the same difficulties in the game. Which leads to this inconsistency: in what other sport does a point start with a penalty? Because that’s the case in tennis with the serve. The returner looks like a goalkeeper during a series of penalty shots.

But if your nephew Rafael was two metres tall and served at 250 kph, perhaps that would suit you, no?

– Careful! If you think that you’re confusing everything. You’re being personal. What I’m telling you isn’t about Rafael. Whether he’s still playing or isn’t has nothing to do with my way of looking at things. I’m speaking as a spectator who’s thinking about the game in general. Besides, as Rafael’s coach, I don’t want anything to change. He’s won fourteen Slams and has had an extraordinary career with the rules I’m criticising and the evolution I’m regretting. I’m not an idiot! I’m someone who has preferences and isn’t alone.

Which means?

— I’ll put a question to you: which points get the most applause?

The most spectacular ones …

— And? …

In general, the longer rallies …

– Exactly. Do you know which player got the most applause in IPTL matches during its Asian swing last December? Fabrice Santoro! Because he can do everything, a stop volley followed by a lob … everything … Which players do we choose to like: those who can create like him, or a player who just hits everything that moves super hard?

You think that other sports have been better to adapt?

– Obviously. Look how football (soccer) has evolved! At the World Cup in Italy in 1990, what happened? A tonne of matches with very few goals. 1-0 or 1-1 if we were lucky. It was obvious that it was necessary to produce something more entertaining for the spectators. So in the wake of that World Cup, two things were changed: the pass back to the goalkeeper was forbidden and three points for a win – instead of two – were awarded. That changed the quality of the spectacle completely. And who’s the best in football today? The strongest physically? No, the most skilled. Messi, Neymar and others …

You would never go and watch Raonic-Kyrgios, if we follow you properly …

– I’ll go because they’re a part of the present game. But if I weren’t involved in tennis at a high level like I’ve been for more than ten years, it’s certain that I’d would watch a skill player rather than a player who hits. Because I like strategy. In football, a Cristiano? He’s phenomenal, no doubt about that. But I prefer a Messi, or a Xaví, who undoubtedly play with more thought. That’s the way I feel in any case.

After Rafael’s losses to Rosol or Kyrgios at Wimbledon, you let it be understood that their game wasn’t tennis …

– No no no, I never said that. It’s tennis because it’s according to the rules of tennis. I’m saying it’s not a tennis that pleases me, but I didn’t say I was right. I said tennis is getting faster, that hitting winners is getting easier. Like Kyrgios is a super player who could end up number one. Take Zverev, for example. He’s a formidable player with very good control. He’s plays quick and serve hard. Happily, there are still players that control like Djokovic. But I think evolving, adapting is essential in present society. Everything goes so quickly in life. Paying to watch a match without rallies? To me, that’s a poor programme. But I don’t claim to have the absolute truth, heh!

Let’s go back to changes. Toni, what should be changed in tennis?

– There are plenty of things we can change, but we have to choose. To me, we need a change in equipment above all. Before, the racquets had very small heads, which required a much greater mastery of technique. But you need to look at the debate from a larger point of view: what counts is not what I would change, it’s more encompassing. It’s what type of player do we want to watch, what sort of spectacle do we want to offer? And by answering that fundamental question, we can evolve the rules. We criticise the time taken between points, but it’s relative. If that time taken leads to longer rallies rather then 3-4 shot rallies, like the large majority of those we saw at the last Australian Open, who wins by it?

If there were only one serve, for example? …

– I don’t think that would be too radical. We need a more general consideration of the importance of the serve. But, again, I’d prioritise more though about the materials – smaller racquet heads, larger balls or at least less quick, and some other things. The conditions of the game lead to great difficulty in controlling the ball, and I’m including the amateur level there. When you’re playing a sport, why are you doing it? To sweat, to have a good time. In tennis today, you hardly even sweat. And you seldom have a good time. Because the ball goes out too much.

Why not be a part of committees about the future of the game?

(Makes a face) The present leaders have a problem, they’re generally old. Very conservative about changes.

You’re starting your tennis academy in Manacor. What will its philosophy be?

– Apply what the current game tells me, quite simply. If it tells me that you absolutely need to hit hard, than they’ll learn to hit hard.

It’s the world tennis bosses that tell you, in some way, how you form your players?

– Obviously, yes. I see a lot of young players at the academy. Oh my! That hit at 2000 at everything, even without any control. They hit, hit, hit. I’ll adapt to what my sport demands. I’d rather insist on the technique, determination, on how, with your spirit you can overcome technical problems, for example. But if it’s another sort of tennis that works, let’s teach that. After, you risk that people applaud less and less. It’s working right now, because people come to see the personalities and there are phenomenal ones. But never forget they also come to watch a match.

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“Tennis is taking a hit.” Amélie Mauresmo talks about the current state of her sport with Vincent Cognet of l’Équipe

Translation of this piece on the Équipe website by Vincent Cognet. (subscribers only)

Does this polemic about equal prize money interest you or annoy you?

– It bloats me, that’s for sure. It don’t see the point of raising this subject again. The cyclical side of it bothers me. Apart from that, there are some points made. At the moment, the men’s circuit is more attractive than the women’s circuit. There’s no debate: there are probably three of the six greatest players of all times playing at the same time! The women’s tour had a period like that around ten years ago. What I don’t understand is, the money the women earn isn’t to the detriment of the men … so where’s the problem? Obviously, Roger, Rafa and Novak are carrying all of tennis, including women’s tennis, which isn’t at that level. But why shouldn’t everyone profit from it? I find it to be a very sterile debate.

But you understand the players’ position …

– If you limit it to Slams, it’s understandable. They play best of five, it’s not the same format … it’s an acceptable argument. I understand in as much as I think I’m more favourable to the women playing five sets at the end of the tournament. With the men playing best of three at the beginning of the tournament. There aren’t many balanced matches in the first week. At the same time, with the women, adding a third set to be won might make the semis or the finals more interesting.

Do you think this debate smells a bit of machismo or sexism?

– Society globally is still and always sexist. We have the chance to develop in a sport where equality is defended. We may even be trailblazers. And I’m happy about that.

Have you spoken about all this with Andy (Murray)?

– Obviously. Considering the context, it was compulsory {she smiles}. I knew very well what he was going to say in front of the microphones. We’d discussed it before. I asked him what he thought before his press conference and we had a dialogue. I didn’t dictate anything. He has very strong opinions about all of it. And I find his arguments especially interesting. He has a very broad, very Anglo-Saxon vision of things. To him, a female world number 100 should have the same opportunities as a male world number 100. He thinks: why should a world number 70 just because he has a pair of balls and he’s born in the same year as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer earn more than a Serena when he doesn’t sell a single ticket? The debate isn’t about whether the men’s tour is more attractive. It’s about equal opportunity. And Andy has understood that perfectly.

The problems with the French Federation, the suspicions of match fixing, Sharapova testing positive, the polemic about equal prize money: is tennis suffering?

– Yes. The image conveyed is terrible. It saddens me enormously. I find it a pity. These things are constantly talked about. The performances, the values, the commitment, the sweat, players transcending themselves aren’t talked about. But it’s obvious tennis is taking a hit right now. Betting fixes, doping … There’s only one thing to do: keep fighting and clean up.

Will we see again one day a golden era for women’s tennis (2000-2005)?

– Hard to answer … Will a Bouchard take Sharapova’s place? Impossible to know. Two things characterised our era: First of all, it was thick with champions. We had, all at the same time, the Williams, Henin, Clijsters, Sharapova, Davenport, Capriati, me etc. It was just huge. And we had the very different personalities, stories and charismas. Do we have both today? With those who are twenty-two-, twenty-three-years old we have Bouchard, Keys, Muguruza … with the French we have Caro (Garcia)and Kiki (Mladenovic). Do they have charisma? Difficult to say. They need to show it pretty quickly in any case. But the problem is, it’s tough co-existing with the Williams or Sharapova. Often, people get a chance to bloom when the strong personalities that may be stifling them are gone. It will be easier for young players to win, but also to position themselves, to blossom, to reveal and assert themselves.

That’s important?

– It’s essential. It’s sport, after all. Sporting values are the key. What happened after Sharapova’s positive test was terrible. A champion like her implicated in a doping story is horrible for the image of tennis. You need to try and be irreproachable. The road isn’t always straight but you can be redeemed with time. For example, Serena’s done it. She’s fulfilling her role and her responsibilities better than ten years ago. The young ones haven’t noticed. At least, not yet.

Are we right to be worried about the tour post-Williams and post-Sharapova?

– In the same way we can worry about the men’s tour! What about after Federer, Nadal and Djokovic? Those guys are legends. And it’s tough replacing legends. I’d put the young players of both tours in the same basket. Men’s tennis isn’t on the brink of disinterest or love lost. Right now, Kyrgios, Zverevs, Corics don’t exist. There’s a world of difference between them and the “Big Four” But that can change.

Are the ATP and the WTA equally good as organisations?

– The one thing I can say is that the ATP seems to be more pro-active. But the era is advantageous for them. When the WTA was strong? In my time, because there was a bunch of champions. Today, the WTA is more of a follower.

Isn’t it also a bit over-protective? When the Sharapova affair happened, the WTA went as far as issuing talking-points to the players!

– I saw that. I’ll let you in on something: it’s always existed to varying degrees. They’re fearful. Apart from that, honestly, I think the players say what they want. I don’t think they should do it, but, in the end, it changes nothing. I don’t have an image of players as shrinking violets.

What’s more, it would be counter to what they’re looking for: expression and development of personality …

– Exactly. On the other hand, explaining properly the situation to a player before a press conference can only be a plus. There, the WTA has a role to play. But telling a player “it would be better to say this”, I’m pretty sure it has no effect.

Would it interest you to be a part of a working group on the future and promotion of the women’s tour?

– It should … But no! [breaks out laughing] I prefer to be on the court. I hope to contribute in one way or another. By being Fed Cup captain, foremost. I like seeing this group pulling people along. But sitting around a table at a series of meetings, that’s not my thing. I’m more of an action person. Giving direction, inculcating values, imposing respect … that’s my thing.

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