Article in the Danish BT by Jeppe Melchior Mikkelsen and Esben Drachmann Rasmussen
Emilie Francati. Remember the name. Because she just might be the girl Danes look to in the future on the women’s tennis tour. At the moment she’s in a good position at 79 in the ITF junior rankings to get direct entry into the main draw at the four Junior Grand Slams.
She’s already played the first a month ago one when she played “Down Under” at the Australian Open. Unfortunately, she went out in the first round of the singles competition when she lost in a third set tie breaker. She had to focus instead on the doubles, and she and her British partner Emily Arbuthnott reached the semi-finals. That made her hungry for more.
“It was fantastic! It was huge fun to experience the atmosphere when you reach the semi-final and final days. The crowd isn’t spread out among twenty courts. They’re all gathered around your court, so you need to get used to that, of course. And there are all sorts of emotions and nerves involved which you’ve never had to deal with before. Unfortunately I didn’t handle them well for myself on the day, but I hope I’ll do better next time,” says Emilie Francati.
Emilie Francati, who has Italian roots, comes from a family of tennis players, and her father runs the Gentofte Tennis Club, where she trains for four hours every day, and that’s besides the strength training she also does.
The many training hours also mean that there isn’t time for a normal education. So while other young people go to upper secondary school or business college, Emily studies individual subjects over the internet. She also makes compromises about her social life when she spends most of the time travelling around the world playing tennis.
“It was hard at the start. Travelling around the world like that is very lonely. Luckily there are other Danes along some of the time, but it’s lonely sitting alone in a hotel room day in and day out. But of course you get to know others from other countries, so there’s some socialising, but obviously I don’t have a class here at home with 28 upper secondary school classmates.”
Even if Emelie’s live is different from other 17-year-olds who use the weekends to party and get drunk, it’s a price she’s more than willing to pay.
“I’m not a big party animal,” says Emilie with a smile. She explains further: “Not because I don’t want to, but it’s difficult to find time for it. It’s not like I can’t have a fun evening when I’m here at home, but when you’re travelling it’s not like you run around and find the nearest bar. It’s not as if I feel I’m missing anything. Sometimes you get a bit annoyed at saying no to various birthdays and parties, but I’d rather have what I have,” she says firmly.
With her 183 centimetres Emilie is well above average in height, and it’s tempting to compare her to the Russian Maria Sharapova. But while Sharapova won her first senior Grand Slam at 17, Emilie is still on the junior tour. It was a conscious choice on her part to wait before moving up to the seniors. as she wants to wait until she has a backpack filled with memories and experiences before trying new challenges.
“I’d like to experience playing the four Grand Slam tournaments, and it would be a bit precocious to say I only want to do that as a senior. And I’m really happy I made that choice. I’ve had some unforgettable experiences. Being in Australia and walking around with people like Federer and Nadal whom you’ve only seen on TV and looked up to a large part of your life gives me a lot of motivation.”
But Emilie wants to get even closer to the big stars. She wants to play against them – that’s her ambition for the future.
“My goal is to turn professional and continue playing full time and travel around. I hope I can get good enough to play senior Grand Slams and be up there among the really good. There’s a way to go yet, but I’m definitely giving it a shot.”
As the country’s biggest upcoming talent, it’s impossible to avoid the label of “The New Wozniacki”. But the young tennis talent takes it quite calmly.
“I have nothing against it because I have great respect for everything Caroline’s doing and has done in her career. And yes, it would be cool to be the new Wozniacki, but I’d rather be a Francati!”
Up next for Emilie Francati are two clay tournaments in Brazil at the beginning of March. Even though her favourite surface is hard court, it’s time to get used to clay so she can check off the French Open in May – the only junior Grand Slam she has yet to play.
Translated by Mark Nixon