“It’s more the French who are teasing me” – Amélie Mauresmo interviewed by @fLaberne in lÉquipe

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.

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Wim Fissette: Still Coaching at the Top

An interview conducted by Carole Bouchard and published on DH (Belgium).

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.

Caroline Garcia: “Hey! There’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number”

An interview by Frédéric Bernes in the 15 March 2015 l’Équipe print edition.

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.”

Timea Bacsinszky: “I need time to catch my breath.”

Combined from two interviews in the 14 March 2015 print editions of La Tribune de Genève and Le Matin (Switzerland) by the same journalist, “SI”.

Timea Bacsinszky needs to catch her breath after an explosive beginning to the season.  After the tournament in Indian Wells, the Vaude native won’t take part in the Premier Mandatory event in Miami.

Eighteen wins in 20 matches, three finals, two titles: Timea Bacsinszky couldn’t dream of a better start to the season.  The Vaude native (WTA 26), who started her Indian Wells appearance with a match against the New Zealander Marina Eraković (WTA 80), sums up her 2015 season start.

Is the start of the season like being in a dream?

“I’m delighted by what’s happened.  But it’s not like a dream because I know what I’ve had to go through to get here.  I always felt the investment would pay off.  But that doesn’t mean you can let up.”

How did you celebrate your two titles in Mexico?

“There was nothing special.  In Acapulco, we simply ate at the hotel.  My coach  [Dimitri Zavialoff] and my friend had a glass of wine, but not me.  In Monterrey, the final ended very late and we got back to the hotel at 3:30am.  I just took ten minutes or so to savour what I’d accomplished.”

Have you set new goals for yourself after your flourishing season start?

“I just want to see how far I can go playing my best tennis.  That way, at the end of my career, I can say that those were my limits.”

What’s your recipe for success?

“Besides the fact that you have to work hard without expecting immediate results, I feel I’ve become more professional both on and off the court.  I’ve managed to find a good balance between Timea the player and Timea the woman. In short, I’m at peace with myself.”

You feel fulfilled then?

“Yes.  I’ve never been this happy before in my life—and it’s lasted for two years now.  I feel good about my life, something I’d never felt when I was younger.”

Do you go back and think sometimes about 2013 when you’d almost quit tennis to start an internship in hotel management?

“I was happy at the time to try something new!  I really enjoyed my work in that hotel.  And it’s not impossible that I’ll go back to that in the future.  The big difference is that in 2013 I got no pleasure from playing tennis.  But things have changed in the meantime, and two years later I’m in Indian Wells.”

You said in Monterrey that you wanted not only to become a better player but a better person.  What did you mean by that?

“I didn’t say I was a bad person.  I’m like anyone else.  I just don’t want success to go to my head.  The are a lot of people who mean a lot to me in my life and I don’t want ever to forget them.”

You’ve had difficulties with your father.  Where are you in your relationship with him?

“I haven’t spoken with him in several years.  It’s my decision and I don’t care if he respects it or not.  He has no rights over me and I want to live my life the way I want.”

On the other hand, your relationship with your coach Dimitri Zavialoff is in good shape.

“Yes, he’s a terrific coach.  He adapts very well to the people he works with and allows them to develop.  Working with him is very stimulating.  He started coaching Stan [Wawrinka] at a very young age, bringing him to the top 10 in the world.  And despite his success he’s always stayed grounded.  I could really keep talking for hours about his qualities.”

After Indian Walls, you’re skipping the Miami tournament. Isn’t it a shame to miss such an important tournament considering your current form?

“I’ve played an enormous number of matches since the start of the season.  I need time to catch my breath, but also to prepare the rest of my season, starting with the Fed Cup in the middle of April.”

About the Fed Cup, would you welcome Martina Hingis to the team?

“Of course!  It would be wonderful to have such a great champion on the team. And on a personal level, I think I could learn a lot by being in contact with her. But even if it doesn’t happen, this Swiss team should be able to aim for promotion into the World Group.”

Translated by Mark Nixon.

We welcome suggestions and comments on the translation and other relevant things. Please use the comments section.

Marin Čilić likes munching on the Big Apple

An interview by Franck Ramella in the 14 March 2015 print edition of l’Équipe.

It’s not by chance that New York is the favourite city of Marin Čilić.  The US Open isn’t the only thing it has.

The player you like the most?

“Andre Agassi.  He could win on all surfaces with his style of play.  He was able to get back to the top after falling out of the top 100.  He played in two eras, from Sampras to Federer-Nadal.  And what’s more, he won several Grand Slams!”

Your favourite Frenchman?

“Jo [Tsonga].  He seems to be very humble.  He’s the ‘nice guy on Tour'”.

The player you don’t like to play?

“Novak [Djoković].  I’ve never beaten him.  His game is solid everywhere—it’s really difficult for me.  I’m trying to find a solution to beat him.”

What do you not like about yourself?

“I like thinking about the people around me a lot—I’ve always been responsible for those around me, I don’t know why.  Which might be a good thing.  But it’s not always a good thing not to think of oneself.”

The type of person you don’t like?

“Arrogant people.  Those who don’t think of others.”

The Grand Slam you like the most?

“Because I saw Goran [Ivanišević] win it, Wimbledon is special for me.  I remember it well; I was at a summer camp.  But if you’re asking me which Grand Slam I want to win, I’d answer any one of them.  They’re all special.  Roland Garros, which I won in juniors in 2005, was the start for me.  I was always solid in juniors without any really great results.  That title launched my career in Challengers with wild cards and interest from agents.”

The place you like the best?

“New York, the city that never sleeps.  I really like this concept.  Last year, for example, we went out several times, especially for Broadway shows during the tournament.  Another day, I went jogging in Central Park.  There’s everything over there.  In the past, I’ve been everywhere with my girlfriend, from the Brooklyn Bridge to museums.”

Your favourite shot?

“The serve, with the possibility it gives of having the control in your hand to finish the point with one shot.  When I was young, the backhand was my most solid shot.  Natural.  What don’t I like?  My transition game forward…”

~

Translated by Mark Nixon.  Comments on the translation are very welcome. Please use the comments section.

Adrian Mannarino: “It’s up to me to make my mark”

“It’s up to me to make my mark”

An interview by Frédéric Bernes in the 11 March 2015 print edition of l’Équipe (page 12).

Adrian Mannarino may be 38 in the world, but he’s still unknown to most people. 

He won’t be pestered by paparazzi and drones won’t fly over his house any time in the near future.  At twenty-six, Adrian Mannarino plays it discreetly.  So much so that that it’s not generally well known that he’s one of the seven Frenchmen in the top 40 and that he has a wonderful deadpan sense of humour.

We left you in Melbourne at the second round taking morphine with a bloated stomach…

“I was afraid of becoming dehydrated, I’d drunk an enormous amount of very cold water, and my stomach swelled… Some losses are worse than others (he was ahead 6-4, 6-4, 4-0 against Lopez, 14 in the world, and had had match point at 5-3 before giving up in the fourth set).  The match stayed with me for a while.  I still got the feeling a month after that I was on court 2 over there with match point. Some losses make you want to improve.  That one bugged me.”

You’re number 38 in the world, but it’s not well known. Does that bother you?

“We have a super generation, some very charismatic guys like Gaël [Monfils], Jo [Tsonga].  I’m aware that outside of the tennis world, no one knows me.  I don’t necessarily feel bad about it.  It’s up to me to make my mark.”

But instead of taking the spotlight in Montpellier and Marseille, you play in Zagreb or Memphis! Why that schedule?

“I found myself seeded second in Zagreb without being sure of being seeded in Montpellier.  I scheduled tactically, like I usually do.  I compare the conditions, I look where the entry list is the most favourable…”

French number 7—do you feel you’re in the middle of the group of eight or nine players Arnaud Clément talks about for the French team?

“Not yet. I’d have to pass some more tests.  When I thought Gaël wasn’t going to Germany (before changing his mind), I told myself it might happen, even if I think a player like Jérémy Chardy deserves it more.  But I look forward to playing it one day.”

You’re surely one of the ones who spends the most time in the States. You like it that much?

“I love it.  There’s a always a terrific training infrastructure.  The people love athletes here, whereas in Europe we’re often considered to be idiots.”

You’ve been coached for the last ten months by Éric Prodon, who’s thirty-three. Isn’t it bizarre to have a coach the same age as Federer?

“Our relationship has evolved.  Éric was still a player when we started at Roland Garros.  But he’s managed to put on a coach’s hat this winter.  On the court, he can be very tough.  I think I’m into it and he tells me: ‘You haven’t moved your arse for half an hour.  You haven’t hit one clean shot!’  That’s good because sometimes the player isn’t aware.”

Why did you leave the Federation?

“Because I felt that Oliver Ramos [the coach he was sharing with Rufin] wasn’t there enough for me.  Today, I pay Éric out of my pocket and that’s fine.  It’s a shame that some players need to stay for financial reasons when they’re not happy with the situation.”

You’re a lefty, you have a flat game based on timing. Do you like your game?

“Not too much, no.  I’d like to have a punchier game, sharper.  When it’s going badly, I get annoyed quickly and I don’t enjoy it.  My coach tells me to enjoy myself, but if I start enjoying myself, I play 15/4 [laughs].  I volley, try different things… This morning, I played a super practice with Falla.  We end in a tie-break and Eric tells me: ‘Go on! Enjoy yourself!’  OK, well, I took it 7-1 and I was ridiculous” [laughs].

~

Translated by Mark Nixon.

Interview with Umpire James Keothavong

From an interview with chair umpire James Keothavong conducted by B92’s Saša Ozmo during the first round of Davis Cup in Serbia.  Brit Keothavong earned the ITF’s “gold badge” rating in 2010.

On officiating the 2014 Wimbledon final between Djoković and Federer.
“You know what, it was my first Wimbledon men’s singles final.  To be given that assignment is a great honor.  That the All England Club and the Grand Slam committee believe in my performance as a chair umpire—it’s great to have that feeling walking out on that court.  It was  fantastic: a classic five-set match between the two best players in the world, Novak and Roger.  It was about four hours and ended up being one of the greatest finals of all time.  For me to be part of that was a great feeling and an honor.”

On his impressions of Serbia.
“This is probably my fifth time here, all for tennis: Fed Cup and Davis Cup.  It’s great to be back.  The previous ties have been in Belgrade, so this is the first time we’ve actually experienced life outside the capital.  It’s slightly different, slightly smaller, Kraljevo [laughs; the city’s population is 70,000].  But it’s great for the federation to bring the tie here and promote tennis in this part of the country as well.  As you could see, it was a capacity crowd—everybody wanted to see Novak, of course, Viktor, and the Serbian team.  Overall, it was a great atmosphere.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had that much time to go on a tour—we’re here for four days and three of those days are for work.  But what we’ve seen so far has been really nice. . . . The people, above all, have been really warm and friendly to us, which makes our job worthwhile.  As you know, we get to see quite a bit of the world, we travel to many different countries, meet lots of different people; so, it’s great to come back to Serbia and have good memories.”

On working with “Hawk-Eye” & the challenge system.
“When it initially came out [in 2006], the chair umpires didn’t know what to expect.  But, over the years, we’ve all found a way of umpiring on a ‘Hawk-Eye’ court.  How I deal with it is that I pretend it’s not there; so, I step in when I have to, I overrule when I have to.  I think that’s the way officiating is going at the moment—all the top chair umpires are doing that.  It’s not just about calling the score or sitting there and not seeing anything.  I think it’s important that we still do our job, and we use ‘Hawk-Eye’ as a tool for officiating.  The players appreciate that and we appreciate it; but, at the same time, we still have to do what we have to do and not just rely on technology.”

“Obviously, when you sit up in that chair and things are going right, it can be the best seat in the house.  But when things start going wrong, it’s a lonely place.  There’s only you sitting up there.  Occasionally, you have players on your back—or, in Fed Cup and Davis Cup situations, captains on your back.  You know, that’s part and parcel of what we do.  If we make a wrong overrule, then we have to deal with it.  We’re human, just like the players—they make mistakes; umpires make mistakes.  But we try to keep those mistakes to a minimum.  The majority of the players now, they don’t really mind when we step in; and if we get it wrong by one or two millimeters, it’s not the end of the world.  I think they prefer us to officiate the match like that than not do anything.  I don’t think there are many mistakes made by the top chair umpires, but it’s a good officiating tool and we’re glad to have it.”

Did he refuse to shake Xavier Malisse’s hand in 2013?
“No, I have to say on record that it’s not true.  It was a misunderstanding.  It was a long match, and I shook the opponent’s hand, Garcia-Lopez, to the right-hand side and I didn’t realize that Xavier had offered his hand. Somebody got hold of it and made it news. . . . Touch wood, there hasn’t been too much controversy [in my matches].

On match fixing
“No, I haven’t had any connection, any communication, or noticed any players doing anything out of the ordinary.  So, I can’t comment on that….  You know more than I do.  To be honest, we have to do what we do—we concentrate on our matches—and whatever happens outside the matches is up to whoever decides [those matters].  But I’ve never been approached and I don’t know of any players who’ve been approached.  I haven’t umpired a match that’s had any sort of suspicion.”

On relations with players
“Let’s face it, we travel with the players week in, week out, and we see them at the tournament hotels.  As I said before, we’re human as well: it’s not us versus them.  But they have their teams, their entourage, and we have our colleagues.  It’s all civil: “Hello, how are you?”  The only thing we don’t do is go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with them.  It’s a professional set-up, as you would expect from organizations such as ITF, ATP, WTA.  We do our job, they do their job, and we like to keep it that way….  We don’t have friends or favorites—we treat the players equally.”

On his favorite tour destination
“I love Australia… You know, it’s winter over here in Europe during that time—the end of December, January—and it’s always cold.  Then you go to Australia and it’s right in the middle of their summer-time—it’s just great.  Straight after Christmas for us, we go over there and there’s sunshine, everyone’s happy, everyone’s wearing shorts and t-shirts, you can play tennis outside.  I couldn’t think of anything better.”

On officials’ salaries
“That’s the million-dollar question.  All I can say is that we don’t get paid enough.  You can write that” [laughs].