His admiration of Roger Federer, how six straight final losses stayed in his head, why he never reached his full potential and how coaching life is mainly about eating and drinking. On working with father Tomic. SweTennis meets Xavier Malisse.
Many elite athletes have problems when their careers end. Xavier Malisse knew this and decided early on to stay on the tour as a coach.
“When I stopped, I was afraid of just sitting at home and doing nothing.”
He started by travelling with his fellow countryman Reuben Bemelmans almost immediately.
“But it wasn’t the right decision and maybe I wasn’t the right man.”
Is it right that you said a few months ago that all you do as a coach is eat and drink?
“It’s true. I’ve coached a few guys. Sometimes you stand on the court and hit with them, but mostly you check on them while they train and see if everything’s OK. But that takes energy. So in the evening, you know … [laughs]. I still have to lose a few kilos but I’ve already lost some.”
Coaching was was exactly what he was doing the last time he visited Stockholm just five months ago when Swetennis was the first to reveal that he was travelling with Bernard Tomic for a few weeks.
“I came here last year with Tomic. But that was …[laughs]”
Yes, what was it like working with John (Bernard’s father)?
“To be honest, John knows an awful lot about tennis and is a nice person, but everything is about tennis 24 hours a day. Sometimes you need to go home and …”
Eat and drink?
“Exactly, and not talk about tennis. You have your time for that when you go the facility, you train, you stretch. But when you get back to the hotel you need to relax and give yourself some space. John know a lot and he has a lot of good ideas about tennis.”
But Malisse, who is something of a bon vivant, isn’t interested in too much tennis, and wasn’t either during his career.
“When Tomic and I arrived at the hotel it was all about tennis. It never ended, it was three hours of tennis directly into your ear. When I played I used to arrange it so that when I was done with the tennis and arrived back at the hotel to eat, I told my mates that now we don’t talk about tennis or tactics. Now we have a normal life.”
Loves exhibition matches
Travelling around and playing exhibition matches with the old guard seems to suit Malisse extremely well.
“This is perfect for me. I love this life. You play tennis, you give the crowd a show, you talk to people, you try to win. It’s a good mix. You meet sponsors There’s no pressure. You have a drink, you eat something, you play tennis and you laugh. It’s great.”
He’s not thinking of giving up coaching though.
“I’m waiting for the right person to ask me, but now I’m doing 8-12 weeks with Nils Desein to help him out, but not full time like with Bemelmans. I’m doing a few weeks up to the French Open and I’ll be there during the French Open – I’m playing exhibitions too. It feels like it can be a good mix – play a little and coach a little, because I like coaching.
The French Open is special
Precisely the French Open is special for the Belgian.
“For us it’s better to play Roland Garros then the Davis Cup. There are never many people at the Davis Cup. When we go to the French Open you have to stand around for two hours before you can get a seat so for us Belgians playing Roland Garros is fantastic. It was like playing in Belgium.”
The French Open is also special for Xavier Malisse who has a title there. Together with Oliver Rochus when won the doubles title there in 2004.
“It’s definitely the high point. Most of all because that title was with Olivier.”
This despite the fact that Malisse comes from the Flemish part of Belgium and Rochus from the French part in a country where that equation isn’t completely problem free.
“Oliver and I travelled to Japan together when we were 12 to play in the junior World Championship so for us it was amazing and special. When we won the French Open all our countrymen were suddenly Belgians [laughs].”
“Suddenly there were a lot of Belgians in the final. Clijsters and Henin were almost always in the women’s final and the men’s doubles was right after, which meant there were a lot of Belgians who had tickets. But none of them made the final, and the women’s final was over in 50 minutes since it was 6-1 6-2 or something like that,” remembers Malisse and continues:
“We met Santoro and Llodra so it was France against Belgium. It was special. To have known Oliver so long and win together 12-13 years later was fantastic. It was actually a very good final. We had a bit of a dip in the second set but it was great.”
Reached 19 in the world
Malisse best ranking was 19 in singles, and three titles and a Wimbledon semi-final were the highlights.
“Sure they were the highlights. Fourth round against Andre Agassi at the US Open was another, a five-setter in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Grand Slam matches are the ones you remember best because they’re the absolute highest level.”
His first ATP title was unforgettable, especially because it laid to rest a finals ghost that had been haunting him for a long time.
“Winning my first ATP title was a huge moment for me. I’d lost six finals, five of them in tie-breakers, so I was beginning to wonder if I could win. It was very special for me.”
When did you start wondering if you couldn’t win?
“The first three losses were nothing since I shouldn’t have won on paper, but then I met Volandri and that one I should have won. Then there was a final in Adelaide where I had injury problems which meant that I couldn’t move. That was against Florent Serra so it was a good chance to win a title, but if you’re injured it’s tough. They were the two finals I should have won, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.”
So Julien Benneteau should ask you how to finally win a final?
“Yeah, he’s lost a few finals, right?”
Ten in a row, I think it is …
“Ouch, that’s rough. Really rough. It was really rough for me after six losses so I can understand how he feels.”
You’ve probably been asked this question before, but many think you could have gone higher than you did. Was there a time when you felt you could have done better?
“I know what you mean and I’ve heard it before. I knew that my tennis was good enough at the start of my career but I was like this in my head all the time,” he says while wiggling his finger at his head.
“But there was a time when I was 26-27. I worked really hard. I began to understand that I needed to train harder and in November/December that year I trained really really hard. At the beginning of the year I beat Nadal in Chennai and won the doubles there. A few weeks later I won the singles and doubles in Delray Beach. I was 25th in the world and I had no points to defend in the next six months. Physically I was better than ever and then I got injured. Sure I could have done better at the beginning of my career, but now I was 26 and very strong physically and mentally.”
“I was playing well, I was in the quarter-final in Memphis and ahead 1-0 in sets and right then I knew I could be a top 15 player. Even a top 10 player. I beat a lot of good players. I beat Nadal, Blake and Santoro. Everything felt good but injuries are tough. I got hurt hitting a backhand. It was tough.
“For me it was a time in my life where I wished I’d been injury free because I felt I could be top 10. I believed it because I’d done the hard work and mentally I was good.”
Compared to early in your career or what then?
“When I made the Wimbledon semi-final I didn’t do much more that year than relax and think it had been a good year in any case. But I was 26 so it didn’t maybe feel like it was my last chance, and I could reach my full potential. But when you get injured and have to start over again when you’re 28, it’s tough to start over again.”
You ended your career recently. Was it a tough decision?
“It was tough and it wasn’t tough. It wasn’t so tough because inside I was empty. I’d played all summer and didn’t have the same desire as before. I felt it was over for me. When you quit like that it’s easy to think you miss it, but it was the right time.”
Are there any players you like watching now?
“I love to watch Federer. I’ve always liked him. Even when I played against him it was fantastic at times. He was the toughest to play against. Sometimes I look at Monfils and Tsonga. I’m not a big fan of Djokovic. It’s the same game all the time, but Federer … You never knew what shot would come and that’s all the time. I don’t watch so much tennis. I watch Grand Slams a bit, but not much else.”
Was it strange playing against Federer when you admired him so much?
“Most of the time you don’t beat him anyway. I had some good matches against him. Sometimes I felt that now I was playing well and had a chance against him. I remember one time at the Australian Open when I’d beaten Andujar and Montanes and was playing really well. I was meeting Federer next and he wasn’t playing his best tennis so I thought that now I really had a chance. We started and he played sick tennis. It was 4-0 after twelve minutes. I just stood there and thought … It was tough, it was on TV and there was a big crowd and really I was just one of the ball kids. It got better, but you know it sometimes felt embarassing to be on the court. There weren’t many who can do the things he did. Or does.”
Did you have any good friends on the tour?
“It’s hard to have best friends on the tour. To be honest, I got along with everyone. Off the court I was pretty relaxed [laughs]. We talked and got along, but was never like we went out to eat. My friends, maybe the Dutch players because we spoke the same language, Haase and Sijsling. Even the French players like Clement and Grosjean. But it always ended up with hanging around with the coach and friends who were with you instead. I had a few American friends too since I lived there, Jesse Levine especially, but it’s not like I’m still calling them.”
It’s would probably be more amusing to ask who you didn’t get along with. Were there any?
“[Laughs] Yes,” he says and squirms.
It seems like we should skip that question now I’m not afraid of you any more?
“Yes, we’ll skip it [laughs] …”
From l’Équipe print edition Monday March 23 2015 page 17 by Frédéric Bernes
Ivan Ljubičić defends his protégé Milos Raonic’s style of play and discusses the stages of improvement of the world number 6, who was beaten in the Indian Wells semi-final by Roger Federer.
He’s the only one who’s name isn’t Federer, Djoković or Nadal to have won Indian Wells since 2004. In 2010, the Croat Ivan Ljubičić won the biggest title of his career here. Presently coaching Canadian Milos Raonic, alongside Riccardo Piatti, the big bald one and world number 3 hasn’t lost his frankness.
Milos Raonic beat Federer for the first time last year in Bercy, and he’s just beaten Nadal for the first time. Do you feel he’s getting closer to them?
They’re baby steps but he’s getting there. He improves in almost every tournament. We’ve made a lot of changes in his game and even his technique in the last year. Beating Rafa here in Indian Wells, a tournament where that’s very difficult to do, is an important step. He’s showing them that he’s there – but the guys (the “Big 4”) don’t gift you anything. It didn’t work like that fifteen or twenty years ago. Sampras and Agassi had occasional dips.
Now he has to show that he can beat them in a Grand Slam …
Yes and that’s what’s most difficult. The ideal would be for Milos to beat those guys again. Look: he’s never beaten Novak. Right?! When he had to play him at the Australian Open [in the quarter-finals], it was complicated mentally. You haven’t done it until you need to do it in five sets, in Australia on top of everything, where Novak is so strong … I’m not saying that because he’s beaten Rafa, beating him at Roland Garros will be easy [laughs]. But Milos won’t be in the same frame of mind.
What’s the most radical change in young Milos’ game?
Five steps. He’s moved up five steps on the court. Before he was far back and hit with enormous spin. Which is an easy tactic. You can use it, but you can’t play with it. He didn’t move well. He was the opposite of what I’d imagined for him. Too me, when you’re two metres tall (1.96 more precisely), you shouldn’t play like that. His previous coach (the Spaniard Galo Blanco) didn’t agree with me. But OK. He brought him from 300th to 15th in the world: hats off!
Since the start of the season, when he’s sitting down, Milos does this odd tapping routine, like he’s playing piano on his knees …
He’s working on his mental preparation with someone. It’s not a psychologist. Milos isn’t lying on a couch talking about his childhood [laughs]. He’s found that this “ritual” works, He stayed impeturbable against Nadal. But you really should talk to him about it [we tried but Raonic was vague on the subject]. The goal is to know yourself as much as possible. Milos has changed his eating habits, his technique … he’s an open and super determined person.
Exactly, isn’t it complicated sometimes to work with such a disciplined boy?
Telling him, ‘Listen, tomorrow it’s rest.’ We have problems with that. It might sound amusing, but I’m serious. He’s two metres tall, weighs a hundred kilos, he needs to be careful. Milos has a tendency to underestimate how much rest he needs. He has the idea it’s a waste of time. He doesn’t switch off, even though he’s got better at it.
Of course you’ve heard those who think that Milos’ game is very boring to watch. What’s your response?
When I watch Kei Nishikori, I tell myself he could be even more spectacular. No? Each has their weapon. Milos works on and uses his serve as much as Kei works on and uses his backhand. Milos doesn’t need to apologise for having such a huge serve. And what’s more, he doesn’t only have that. Everyone knows that. We know those types who are two metres tall who have serves as good as Milos’ and who aren’t at his level. If the critics came to see what a Milos practice was like, maybe they’d change their minds. The are some who prefer Djoković or (Andy) Murray to Federer or Raonic. I’ll tell you right off: to me, that (Djokovic and Murray), that’s boring.
Translated by Mark Nixon
From the Gazzetta dello Sport, Friday March 20, 2015 page 28. Article by Vince Martucci
Fatigue, quarrels or individual choices?
The number one doubles pair of the last 3 years is no more.
Two pieces of circumstantial evidence are not proof, but three, four, yes. So the divorce of the Cichi, the number one doubles pairing in the world made up of Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, the most successful ever of all our Italian women, isn’t a bolt from the blue. It was in the air in September in New York and exploded here in Miami, like a letter from two lovers delivered to a mutual acquaintance (the WTA, the organisation which organises tournaments apart from the Slams and the Fed Cup.)
Is it possible that the pair, winners of 22 tournaments, 5 of which are Slams – with last year’s Wimbledon title win achieving the so-called “career Slam” – have quarrelled? Yes, it’s possible. Even though Errani’s brother and manager David denies it: “In South America they discussed the possibility of no longer playing doubles together to better plan their singles careers. They didn’t play together in Indian Wells because Roberta needed to recover from a shoulder injury. And in Miami they made the decision, as always in friendship and calm. In any case, in April in Brindisi they’ll be at the captain’s disposition for the Fed Cup meeting against the US.” Let’s infer that the Cichi wanted to leave as number one, rather than pass on the torch on court in a tournament – a possibility that seemed imminent. Perhaps Barazzutti OK’d the split, and will reunite the Pennetta-Vinci pair for the next Fed Cup, on paper the stronger team.
Would be a pity. Because the two small/big fighters who have reached their full potential – one reaching number 5 in the world [Sara in May 2013] and the other number 11 [Roberta June 10 2013] – have been tight since February 2009 when they were launched as a team during the Fed Cup in Orleans. Vinci, older by 5 years and the more technical of the two, is called the “women’s Ferrer”, and refined the volley. Errani taught her friend sacrifice and dedication. Both learned tactics and discipline form their current coaches Pablo Lozano and Francesco Cinà. The great successes of the one became the goals of the other, even if Roberta wasn’t happy about losing to Sara in the quarter-finals of the US Open 2012, and vice-versa, the Roman wasn’t happy about losing to the native of Taranto in the Palermo final 2013. Did they really quarrel in September after Roberta’s win over Sara in Cincinnati? “Nonsense” and “bullshit” insists Vinci: “Maybe someone wants our beautiful friendship to end … Maybe they’re envious.” Errani echoes: “It’s one thing to say we have words on court, that’s normal, it’s different to invent locker room arguments.”
Something disturbed the idyll. Certainly, after having done double duty in singles and doubles in so many tournaments last year, the drop in performance for both of them was inevitable. Although it was offset by the doubles triumph at Wimbledon, the only Slam they were missing – and the most difficult surface for Sara (but the most coveted by Roberta, the Italian with the best serve and volley.) Certainly, as in the warmest friendships and love affairs, an overdose of togetherness played a part. Certainly the disappointment in Genoa against France – the first in blue for Vinci – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In Australia the two inseparables took different paths, in Genoa they moved apart, and in Indian Wells they lost sight of each other: when had they ever trained separately? When they didn’t appear in the doubles draw, it caused enough of a stir that Serena Williams tweeted about it. They’d closed the last of three stages. They had lived in a symbiosis with coaches and family, totally differently from the many other more or less improvised pairings in tennis. And now the divorce via a letter: ” …We invested lots of energy, both mental and physical, to achieve our goals, which we are very proud of. Therefore we now feel the need to rest and catch our breath. It has been an honour and a privilege for us to represent our Country…”
And thank you, Cichi.
Translation by MAN
Original source: http://www.tennistopic.com/rod-laver-arena/noticias/el-caso-gala-leon-llega-la-moncloa/
The Spanish Tennis Federation has asked for an audience with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy after the National Sports Council recently requested the written proceedings of the meeting at which Gala León was selected as captain for the Spanish Davis Cup team. According to Fernando Fernandez-Ladreda, vice-president of the Federation, “This is a ploy by Miguel Cardenal, Secretary of State for Sport, to dismiss the first female captain of a male national team.”
“We’ve sent a telegram – attached to her election certificate – to the President of Spain , Mariano Rajoy, who has always supported this sport, and was present at the Davis Cup semi final in Cordoba – a match that gave us our entry to our last Davis Cup in Sevilla – asking him to straighten out this mess, considering that this manoeuvre of Miguel Cardenal comes eight months after the appointment,” explained the Federation in a press release. “Since July 2014, Miguel Cardenal has neither visited nor congratulated Gala León, and she was forbidden from using the Sports Council room for her introduction, acts for which Cardenal has been reported to the National Court; and now he casts doubts about the legality of her appointment by demanding proceedings that have never been asked for previously, for example with Albert Costa, Alex Corretja or Carlos Moyá, just to mention a few examples.”
“In sport there must be people who know about sports,” Nadal said after beating Simon at Indian Wells. “In sports there must be people that understand. It’s as if you put me as a director of a hospital! I don’t know anything about medicine and how things work there,” continued the world number three when he found out about the situation in his press conference. “The people who run, who make the decisions, must know about the sport. It’s always a good thing when the people that make decisions have experienced all the levels of the sport: as coach, as a player, as a kid when you go and play a tournament … it’s important to have experienced all those levels to make important decisions,” continued the winner of fourteen Grand Slams. “And not only in terms of Davis Cup captaincy, but also at the federal level. It’s complicated, the way of choosing the people that make decisions in our sport. In my honest opinion, it’s complicated to find people that really understand what they need to do.”
How did we get to this point? Two regional federations (Castilla Leon and Aragon) reported to the Sports Council that the election of León as captain of the Davis Cup team wasn’t done according to the regulations. The policies of the organization that rules tennis in Spain say that the board of directors must vote on the appointment of the person who will direct the team. However, after Carlos Moya stepped down as captain last September, Jose Luis Escañuela offered León the position without a vote, even if the federation insists she had been ratified by the directors twice and they have shown “total unanimity” in supporting the first female coach of the men’s team.
That’s how the conflict came to the Senate, where the government had to answer the question of how they would fix the mess. “Prior to any possible action in the matter, it should be noted that the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation [RSTF] should clarify and examine the appointment of Gala León as Captain of the Davis Cup team as doubts have been raised about its legality. That is the responsibility of the board of the RSTF,” replied the government in a statement to Narvay Quintero Castañeda, Canary Coalition senator. “Independent of this issue, proposals and sports projects of the RSTF, monitoring and approval, are coordinated with the General Department of High Competition Sports Council, like the rest of Spanish sports federations. Finally, regarding the debate generated by the designation of Gala León as captain of the Davis Cup team, the players have already stated publicly that they have focused on sporting criteria, not gender.”
Now, while León tries to convince tennis players in Indian Wells to take part in the next event in July (Spain travels to Russia looking for their first win to return to the World Group, and many of them haven’t even talked to her) smoke is seeping out of the offices and trenches are being dug for what is coming. The message is clear: the Federation, with the men’s team in the second division and the women’s fighting relegation to the third, is in a war that is not being played on the court.
Translated by https://twitter.com/MSharapovaWeb with an assist from @markalanix
From the print edition of l’Équipe, March 19 2015 page 13. Interview by Frédéric Bernes
The Swiss Timea Bacsinszky hasn’t stopped winning in 2015. And yet she’s come from a long way back.
Last night Timea Bacsinszky challenged Serena Williams on Court 1 in the Indian Wells quarter-finals. Before the shock against the world number one, the 25-year-old Swiss, 26th in the world, was coasting on a series of 15 wins in a row. It’s been twenty-one wins and two losses [Halep in the final at Shenzhen and Muguruza in the third round of the Australian Open] since the beginning of the year for Bacsinczky. It’s impressive in itself, but is brought even more into relief by the knowledge that she had stopped playing tennis two years ago with a career in the hotel business in mind. At the time, it wasn’t so much tennis but her father she was escaping from. And then she got an email asking her to sign up for the Roland Garros 2013 qualifications. She told herself, why not? And she was off again. For herself and no one else this time. She tells her story:
Exactly two years ago I was arranging the date to start my internship in a five-star hotel. For me it was over, I wasn’t going to play any more. I told my friend: “Ok, fine, I’m going to serve coffee in cafés.” And I would have loved it.
That’s when you find out that you aren’t aware of the resources a human being can have. I still can’t get over having put together those two weeks in Mexico [she’d just won Acapulco and Monterrey back-to-back] and to win even more matches here. It’s almost unreal.
Considering the athlete I was before – really, athlete in quotation marks, because I was in really sub-standard condition – I don’t even know how I managed to get up to 37th [in 2010]. I was ultra clever, I read the others’ games well but I never worked on my own. It was just a continuation of the world I’d been put in. It’s one thing to want celebrity, money, all the shiny stuff, but I wasn’t a happy person. I was hiding from reality. I had my little tennis success, I imagined kids wanted to do what I did, but they didn’t really know. I couldn’t go all out because I had a father, really just a sire – I know the words are rough, but it’s an objective view of the situation – who put me in a cage. A prison. I don’t want to complain, that people say: “Oh that poor girl!” By telling my story, I tell myself that it might help other people. Open eyes.
My mother is a dentist. So it wasn’t likely to be her who would show me how to hit a forehand. My dad is a tennis pro. I was three when he brought me onto a tennis court for the first time. He saw quickly that the project that was unsuccessful with his two other kids [by another mother] was possible with me. My mother didn’t say no. Did she sense what I was feeling? I don’t know … I’m not upset with her. She brought in the money so her family could live, she couldn’t see everything, know everything.
I didn’t have a cool childhood. I remember there were hotlines for children who were not being treated well and thinking about calling them ate me up. But I was afraid that he [her father Igor] would see on the bill that I’d dialled that number and I would have problems … I was never hit. I got a few slaps, he pulled my hair … But it was mostly psychological. I thought about running away. I’d searched the Internet to find out about how to run away successfully. I suffered from the “pushy parents” syndrome, which is pretty widespread in tennis. And we still don’t know everything. The WTA prefers to show all the nice stories. But if I look around me, if I look at the stats … To me, parents, they’re not made to coach. Any parent can teach a kid how to play tennis. It’s enough to read books. After, you have to step down.
My father never took care of me except on the tennis court. Taking care of your kid isn’t throwing a tennis ball at her. I didn’t have a father. I don’t see him any more, I don’t talk to him and that’s the way it will be to the end. I’m not lacking in anything. My childhood was stolen. My adolescence was stolen too. You couldn’t take Timea out of tennis. Me, I only had one wish: to get away. The worst thing is, I’d certainly have played better if he’d let me breathe. On the court I had a moment where I could escape his control. He told me, “play crosscourt there.” And I’d play down the line. Except there would come the moment where I had to win the match, otherwise he’d make me pay [she twice won The Little Aces, the official World Championship for under 14’s, as Martina Hingis did]. When you’re afraid of what might happen to you if you lose, you develop a special thing. But I think I loved competition when I was a kid. What kid doesn’t like to win? I’m convinced that when I was very small, I loved tennis. But he made me hate it.
He had this unhealthy desire to shine, to be known, that people would say he was the best coach. To do that it was no problem for him to scream at me. Money? He surely wanted to end his life in a palace. When I got my first sponsor, he quit work to become my coach. It was the worst moment of my life.
He took a nice little salary with his girl’s sponsor. He bought me one or two pairs of jeans because he needed to give a carrot to the donkey. When I was fifteen, I forced my mother to divorce him. If she didn’t, I didn’t want to see either of them ever again. Happily, I had school. I was so happy to learn new things, new Swiss things I couldn’t learn at home because my father is Hungarian. I lied to my father to take part in intramural competitions. I’d hidden my running shoes under my history book. I’d become a professional liar. I had to get around him all the time just to live, or survive. I don’t know. I was lucky to have nannies at home. One of them gave me the love of cooking. I made soups for my mother in the evening with my nanny. I was happy then.
I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last two years. I’ve finally understood why I couldn’t do more before. Because if I shone, “he” shone too. With what I’ve endured, people who know me ask me how I managed to stay out of drugs and alcohol. At one time, I went out a lot in Lausanne. I must have been a sorry sight. During the day I was glued to the settee. In some ways it was good I got injured [a foot in 2012]. In 2013, I started an internship in a palace in Villars. In September I was supposed to enter hotel school. Maybe later, I’ll go back.
Translated by Mark Nixon
Translation of this article http://www.gazzetta.it/Tennis/15-03-2015/tennis-schiavone-gazza-news-amo-verita-110115808659.shtml by “G.Des”.
In the Gazzetta’s news broadcast the Milan native speaks of the future: “At 35, I prefer to live in the present and a few months ahead rather than look further than that.”
Francesca Schiavone was the guest of honour for the 13:15 edition of Gazza News, the news telecast of Gazzetta TV. In the via Rizzoli studios the 2010 Roland Garros champion, the only Italian woman to ever have won a singles Slam, summed up her season. The Milan native, who went out at Indian Wells in the first round, spoke about the incredible episode during the match against Zhu, when the chair umpire didn’t see an obvious double hit [the ball hit Zhu’s racquet first, then bounced on her side of the net, then over the net – MAN] by the Chinese.
Respect and Friendship
“Angry? A bit. I love this sport and when things like this happen I suffer and feel badly. It was a delicate moment: we had set point, the crowd was applauding and the umpire was distracted. I argued, partly because it happened practically directly in front of his chair. I asked her to admit to what happened – nothing. We’re athletes but sport is also the truth and she wouldn’t admit to it. I learned from Serena [Williams] and from Roger [Federer] about competing. But at the same time there has to be on court respect and friendship. Look at Rafa and Roger on court: they fight but at the same time they respect each other.”
And look at the tattoo she tweeted: “#ThisIsSport”. “I hope we old ones can educate the younger generation.” Francesca then turned back to that marvellous 2010: “Ah, I enjoyed it so much. Paris gave me something I can’t explain. They are emotions that stay with you and that you can relive. I felt like the happiest person in the world on that day. I got to the final in 2011 but with more difficulty, but I’m satisfied just the same.”
Inter and I
The future? Small steps. The Rio Olympics? “I’ve made a pact with myself of loyalty and respect to my competitions. At 35, I prefer to live in the present and a few months ahead rather than look further than that. I want to get results that bring a smile to my lips, get better physically and technically every day – there’s always something to work on.” And don’t talk to her about sacrifice. “Tennis is a sacrifice? No, if anything it’s a commitment, otherwise do something else. I’m always looking for personal growth.”
And football? “I’m an Inter fan, you know. We’re struggling. But these are difficult years for Milano too. Inter and I will win together – success in the Champions League.”
Translated by Mark Nixon
Please by all means comment, suggest in the comments section.
From the print edition of lÉquipe March 16 2015. Interview by Frédéric Bernes
Amélie Mauresmo isn’t talking much with Andy Murray about the upcoming Davis Cup meeting between the UK and France. She won’t be there, but she has a rock-solid alibi.
After a break of a week for the Davis Cup, Amélie Mauresmo has met up again with “her” Andy Murray at Indian Wells, where the Scot imposed himself from the start by defeating Vasek Pospisil [6-1,6-3]. Very relaxed on the California soil, the Frenchwoman says she’s delighted and proud of soon entering the tennis Hall of Fame and is happy about the arrival of Jonas Björkman at her side to coach Murray.
18 July, perhaps on grass at Queen’s, it will be Davis Cup doubles day between Great Britain and France. But you, where will you be?
Not there, that’s certain. I’ll be making an unscheduled trip [smiles].
You’ll be then at Newport in the United States for your induction into the Hall of Fame …
– Of course. It makes me super proud. It’s recognition from my peers. You see that not everyone gets in, it gives you an exclusivity and selectivity that’s not disagreeable. It’s good for the ego [laughs]. It’s a time to look back at what you’ve done. Me, I hadn’t been looking back. Now I notice that I’ve made a mark on the history of my sport.
Without this ceremony, would you have gone to this Davis Cup quarter-final?
Really, no. I have a whole series of things to do between the Fed Cup in April [semi finals in the Czech Republic with France] and Wimbledon. I want to be quiet and rest. And if I went, all my reactions would be scrutinised, so …
Do talk about the Davis Cup with Andy Murray?
-No, we haven’t talked much about it. We’re here and we have to manage his post-Davis Cup. He gave quite a bit in Glasgow [3-1 win over the United States]. It’s more the French who are teasing me [laughs].
When the challenge draws near, will it become taboo to talk about the French players with Andy?
Of course not. He knows as much as I do about the guys. They’re his generation, he’s played them all tonnes of times. I don’t know how I could tell him anything new.
I hope he’ll (Björkmann) will be in Miami.
What do you know about his lieutenant James Ward, the hero of Glasgow last weekend?
He was with us last winter in Miami during the preparation. Andy pulls everyone up. Suddenly James and the kid Kyle Edmund want to show him that he’s not all alone. Right now, Ward is a guy who’s hitting well. He doesn’t have a flashy game. He’s not very consistent yet.
We know that the Swede Jonas Björkman [ world number 4 in 1997] will join you very soon on Andy Murray’s team. How are you taking it?
Very well. When Dani [Valiverdu, now Berdych’s coach] left, it was obvious we needed someone. I would have preferred to have found someone between the seasons, but Andy likes to take his time and think over things. I gave him a few names [Loïc Courteau was among them], Andy offered others and Jonas’ name came up.
Do you know him?
Not well, but I work quite a bit on instinct and I feel he’s a guy who could stick. We’re awaiting his arrival. I hope it will be in Miami, but I don’t know if he’s finished with Dancing With the Stars [Swedish Version].
You’ve already spoken on the telephone?
Of course. We talked about Andy’s game, how things work … Now they have to try things out together. If it works well, we’ll offer to share the tournaments. I think it would be a super addition. I even wanted Jonas to go to Dubai [in February] with Andy.
For the Hall of Fame, you need to choose someone to make an introductory speech. And if you chose Andy Murray?
– Oh yeah, not a bad idea [laughs]
Translated by Mark Nixon
Please use the comments section for comments and suggestions. They’re always welcome.
After Simona Halep, our compatriot is now taking care of Victoria Azarenka. Wim Fissette quickly recovered from the ending of his collaboration with the Romanian Simona Halep, finalist at Roland Garros last year. Here he is now in charge of ex-number one in the world Victoria Azarenka, a challenge that is meant to be long-term…
Wim Fissette, how did this new adventure begin?
I received a message from her agent Meilen Tu, but because I’d just started my academy in Belgium and my wife and I were expecting our first child in July, I replied that it was going to be complicated. She then said we could find a solution and we succeeded. What’s more, I really appreciated that Vika called me after. We’ve had very good contact from the beginning and she’s been very honest with me. I felt she was someone very ambitious and determined to return to the top. It’s a great opportunity for me and I really think we can get good results together.
Is it complicated coming after Sam Sumyk, since Azarenka had a very strong relationship with him?
She had some great moments with Sam, but 5 years is a lot and both needed new challenges. I know Vika was sad when he told her he was leaving, but I told her that perhaps it was good for her to try something new, to find new motivation and a different approach. I spoke a lot with her; I’m not a dictator on court. We work as a team—I’m not her boss.
What areas are you working on?
My goal is to make a more aggressive player and her goal is to become the most complete player possible. Her returning is a weapon: it allows her to get on top of rallies straight off. I also want to better her serve and get her to go to the net more often. She’s very good defensively, but she’s even better when she attacks, especially when she stays glued to the baseline. And I’m also trying to boost her confidence because 2014 was a very difficult year for her.
Do you feel any particular pressure?
There’s always pressure—we’ll just do our best. We can’t do more. She’s working very hard, and her conditioning is very good, too. She’s very much a perfectionist: she really wants to progress. We have a long-term agreement because Vika is like that—there’s no end date, she’s in for the long haul and that suits me.
There are a lot of coaching changes on the women’s tour, reflected by what happened with you and Simona Halep. How do you explain that?
Some players are perhaps too concerned with short-term results. And for a coach, it’s not always easy at the start because you need to think short-term because maybe you won’t have the time to build something long-term. You need to find a balance. I don’t like coming in and changing too many things right away. For example, I don’t know what the story is with Vika and her serve—how long has she been working on it? Has she had shoulder problems? You need to go step by step to get a better overview. Yes, it’s a bit like what happened with me and Simona Halep… We had a very good year. OK, we might sometimes have communicated a little better with each other, but it was difficult sometimes when, like in Singapore, half of her team doesn’t understand English. But she was progressing and I had the impression that my job wasn’t done, and I could have made an even better player. But it was her choice and I’m proud of what we accomplished. On the other hand, we didn’t win a Grand Slam—and that was my goal…
Translated from the French by Mark Nixon.
Garcia is “Miss Latina”. The trend is confirmed. Now ranked 28, the 21-year-old native of Lyon won her only title in Bogotá last year. And now she’s reached two consecutive finals in Acapulco and Monterrey, each time meeting the same woman: Timea Bacsinszky. Goodbye Mexico, it treated you well. Now the locale has moved to the Californian desert where heat was oppressive yesterday (34°C). Yesterday, Garcia was in a tussle and escaped with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 win over the Slovenian Polona Hercog, ranked 75, in 2 hrs 17 minutes.
Would you say your Mexican tour was a success or was there one more win missing, like a title…
“Considering the circumstances before making the trip, I’m very happy with the two finals. I might have gone out in two first rounds. There were no titles at the end of it but going through all that was good experience. I’d gone to Dubai just after the Fed Cup. We all know how the Fed Cup eats up energy. Especially when you win the deciding doubles 3-2 [which is what happened in Italy]. I reached the doubles semi-finals in Dubai, so I left Sunday evening—for Lyon. It was either that or spend seven hours waiting at an airport. After that, I took three flights: Lyon-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Mexico, and Mexico-Acapulco. Because the final there was scheduled for Saturday, I had to play on Tuesday.”
It seemed that between Acapulco and Monterrey there was a change of season…
“It was summer in Acapulco. It was 30°C and very humid. And then we went from the seaside to a refrigerator. It was 10°C sometimes in Monterrey. Even 8°C, I think. There’s a heat limit in the rules, but not one for cold.”
You didn’t lose a set on the trip…
[cuts off] “Yeah, except in the final! [laughs]. OK, that means I had some solid matches.”
The one against Ivanovic [6-1, 6-4 in the Monterrey semis] made an impression. Was it a good match? A great match?
“A good match. I wasn’t playing out of my head—not that, no. I put her under pressure from the start and she couldn’t deal with it [Garcia meets the Serb in the next round]. It’s my best match this season but I wasn’t putting everything I had into it by hitting like a crazy person.”
There are good vibrations between you and Latin America…
“I love that part of the world. I made the finals there in Casablanca [Mexico] as a junior and I won in Venezuela. I like the people in those countries.”
And they must like a woman called Garcia…
“It’s a good name to have there, true. It plays well. There are a lot of Garcias in Mexico.”
Did you get the impression that you found more solutions from one final to the other against Bacsinszky?
“I won three games in Acapulco [6-3, 6-0] and I won more in Monterrey [4-6, 6-2, 6-4]—so, yes. Like she disappeared for a bit and we didn’t know her game. She runs everywhere, she gets everything back. She has this incredible backhand. You can’t tell where it’s going. She shifts gears on her backhand [like Benoit Paire].”
You’ve never been ranked as high before as you are this week. Is that important to you?
“Getting into the top 30, that means something. Hey, there’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number! [laughs]. It’s one of those small peaks you need to climb over; it gets you seeded in the big tournaments [here she’s seeded 25].”
We saw that your left thigh was very well taped up…
“No, it’s OK. It’s nothing now. [Her father and coach interrupts: ‘It was still a muscle pull.’] Yes, but it’s gone now. [Louis-Paul: ‘You couldn’t hit for three days.’]”
When will Nathalie Tauziet, who’s been advising you for a few months, join you?
Louis-Paul: “We don’t have any finalised plans.”
But it’s still on?
Louis-Paul: “We’ve always worked in stages—with Nathalie like with others. We have a base core, Caroline and me, which we add to. But we have no finalised plans there.”