Umpiring: Aurélie Tourte, a woman in the chair

Translation of this online article

Aurélie Tourte
Aurélie Tourte,  standing on the left, the most highly ranked French umpire when she got her Silver Badge in 2014, travels around the world at the beck and call of tournaments.

It wasn’t love at first sight between umpiring and Aurélie Tourte.

“Me, I liked playing tournaments or team matches for my club in Plaisir (the Yvelines),” she explains. “I discovered umpiring via the ITF Futures organised by TC Plaisir and during team matches. Without being completely seduced.”

Around 20 at the time, Aurélie was taken in hand by two umpires who give her the chance of umpiring in Deauville during the ATP Rennes Challenger. It was the turning point.

“I was able to see professional umpires at work, and it started to interest me. Gradually, encouraged by Maryvonne Ayale, President of the CRA (Regional Umpiring Commission) and the Yvelines League, I got taken with it and started passing my certificates.”

In 2014, Aurélie umpired for 26 weeks (Roland Garros, US Open, Monte Carlo,  ATP 250s, the WTA tour, ATP Challengers), which led to her being granted the Silver Badge in December of last year.

“I was proud about getting it, but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as I’d umpired quite a few matches and got good evaluations.”

In 2015, her programme up to June was just as busy: Feucherolles, a Fed Cup in Sweden,  then Marseille, Acapulco, Monterrey, a break in March, the Saint Breuc Challenger, Monte Carlo, Marrakech, Aix-en-Provence, Strasbourg (WTA) then Roland-Garros. The objective was straightforward: getting to know the Top Ten players of the WTA and ATP. “I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. So I need to learn to talk to them, to get ‘run in’.”

Temping as a nurse

Despite careful planning, expenses (travel, hotels, food sometimes covered) paid, Aurélie still hasn’t made the choice between professions. A nurse by training, she takes advantage of the shortages in French hospitals to work as a temp when umpiring gives her the time. Of course, in daily life, the travel isn’t easy to manage.

“Sure, my apartment is more of a furniture warehouse,” smiles the 31-year-old woman who still lives in Plaisir. “And as a woman it’s difficult fitting it into family life.  But now that I’m the highest ranked French woman, I’d like to see where it leads, as there have been only two French Gold Badge umpires in history (Anne Lasserre and Sandra de Jenken).”

Among the necessary qualities required she cites, randomly,  excellent sight, good communication with the players and the public, but also being able to make quick decisions. And especially a strong character. What’s not obvious: “Promoting women’s umpiring is complicate in France as it is elsewhere. You need to find your place in a man’s world. But you learn about yourself, you discover countries, people, ways of life. If you have a passion for it, you must grab on to it.”

This passion has allowed Aurélie to experience some big moments such as the 2012 Olympics, where she was a line umpire for the five finals, and being in the chair for the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros in in 2013.

 

Translated by Mark Nixon

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Frederik Løchte Nielsen: Revelations make me mentally stronger. Part one of three.

Part one of a three part interview by Philip Ørnø on the Danish tennis site Tennisavisen.dk with Danish pro Frederik Løchte Nielsen, who won the Wimbledon doubles title with Jonathan Marray in 2012.

Frederik Lløchte Nielsen has managed the transition from junior to senior as few other danes have done. So it seemed natural to ask him how he tackled the mental side of the game. In this conversation he spoke of the “revelations” and tennis player can get – both on and off the court.

When I here revelation, I think of a turning point in your live where you suddenly see things from a new angle and in an extremely constructive way. It’s an “aha” moment or a moment of clarity.

Løchte Nielsen has had an astonishing number of revelations, but three stand out for him:

A couple of weeks ago, just before the Davis Cup, I saw a documentary about football in Colombia, about drug money and players who were killed when they lost. It struck me that they were playing for their lives, and that tennis had absolutely no consequences for my life. I play because I choose to and because it makes me happy.

The only consequence tennis can have for my life is that every time I don’t compete happy or with peace of mind, it’s a match lost on my record. The only consequence ihas is that I can lose the opportunity for many more experiences. There are no existential consequences.

I have a roof over my head, food and a bed, and even when things go badly, I’ll likely figure something out, so that aspect of my life is never in danger. So why do I get nervous, why do I get angry and disappointed in myself? The are no consequences with losing. They’re imaginary.

That revelation goes seems to segue into the next.

Problems are imaginary. They don’t exist. They’re only problems when I make them problems.

There are no bad balls

It’s likely happened to most players that their forehand or backhand is suddenly a problem. But it’s only something we pretend, thinks Løchte Nielsen. If we conclude that we’re hitting the ball badly, then we’re hitting it badly because we choose to.

It’s the same with bad conditions – bad balls, courts, situations, that my opponent is cheating – “bad” is a value you attribute to it which doesn’t help you as a player. It’s something I’ve become very aware of.

Løchte Nielsen has a rule: he mustn’t use adjectives with words like balls, courts, tournaments etc. He must only use constructive sentences like: “the court is slow so I need to prepare myself to play longer rallies.” That way he’s simply trying to control what he can control.

No one is afraid of losing

The third and last revelation for Frederik was as much a theory as a revelation:

No one in tennis is afraid of losing. I think players are afraid of facing their demons, which are much more exposed by a loss than a win. We can disguise it better when there are good results on the board. We can forget our demons when we win, or we can in any case be blind to them.

With a loss we’re reminded of our demons and the things we don’t like about ourselves. I think we’ve all had the experience of leaving the court as losers when we’ve played really well. So it isn’t losses were afraid of – we’re afraid of performing badly. And that’s also why so many defence mechanism come out.”

Instead of throwing excuses around, you need to prepare yourself, thinks Løchte Nielsen. Accept the level you’re at, accept that there are limitations. In that way you can be fair to yourself and not be so hard on yourself when things go badly. Or as Løchte Nielsen says:

When things go badly, it’s not because I’m doing it on purpose. I can’t control the outcome, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I can be hard on myself for only three things: intention, intensity and concentration. Those are the three things I can control.

Translated by MAN

Carina Witthöft, who won yesterday, on her season so far

Original Source: Tennismagazin, http://www.tennismagazin.de/news/witthoeft-angriffslustig-ich-will-mehr-als-platz-56/

“I want more than No.56”

Miss Witthöft, at the beginning of the year you were gunning for a place among the Top 100. Now you’ve climbed to No.56. Does your success surprise you?

I didn’t really expect it. But I’ve been practicing really well in the last few and have progressively improved my game.  I’ve really made a leap forward in training, I’m willing to try new exercises and have been consistently working on my fitness, and it shows on the court.

That’s it?

It’s crucial that you can apply what you’ve learned in practice to matches and not fall back to old patterns. And confidence is key. I built my confidence by winning a few ITF titles and therefore joined the WTA tour with a positive attitude.

What’s your ranking goal for the end of this season?

In general I don’t set myself ranking goals. It’s my aim to win as many matches as possible at every tournament.  If that keeps happening, then my ranking will keep improving.

So it’s all good so far this season?

Yes and no. On one hand at the start of the year I would’ve been very happy with No.56 at this time, but on the other hand I could’ve done even better. It’s a positive milestone, but I want more!

You’re playing quite a few smaller tournaments beside the big WTA events. Why?

That’s correct. I skipped the tournament in Madrid for example. Madrid has a very strong field – even in qualifying, where I would’ve had to compete. At the ITF tournament in Cagnes-sur-Mer I had a bigger chance to play more matches and gain more points.

That worked out well. You won the tournament, the biggest title of your career.

I’m really happy and pleased with that title. It was a great week and I’m taking a lot from it. I’m satisified, especially with the final [she beat Tatjana Maria who she had lost to just weeks earlier]. It was particularly important that I came back when I was trailing in the first set and managed to win that set. But I’m already focussing on the next challenges.

Are matches more important to you than individual training?

I think both should go hand in hand. The right blend enables an [improved] performance.

Do you play these smaller tournaments to improve your confidence by having a better match record against supposedly weaker oppositon?

I don’t really pay much attention to my record. But you gain a lot of momentum when you do well in a tournament.

But you can’t earn the big bucks at these tournaments. Cagnes-sur-Mer had a total prize money of only $100,000.

True, but I’m not playing tennis for the money. Of course tennis shouldn’t be a loss-making enterprise, but playing matches is very important for me at the moment.

What were your highlights so far this season?

The Australian Open for sure [she made the third round, beating Top 20 player Suarez Navarro]. But there were other nice moments as well, making the quarters in Malaysia or winning my first round match in Stuttgart.

You made some waves with a, let’s say dialogue between you and your father. [https://www.facebook.com/Sandplatzgoetter/videos/10153268733551639/] You complained about the crowd noises. What happened there?

(laughs) Maybe my temper got the better of me there. I hope nobody resents me for that. Tennis is an emotional sport with lots of ups and downs, and that was a down. When you’re playing in front of a home crowd you put yourself under a lot of pressure, but I enjoyed the matches and I gave it my best.

~

Translated by Katja

Paul Haarhuis (Dutch Fed Cup captain) on Indy de Vroome

Original article: http://www.tennis.nl/nieuws/haarhuis-twijfelde-over-potentiële-top10-speelster-de-vroome

Dutch Fed Cup captain Paul Haarhuis gave some serious thought about selecting Indy de Vroome for the Fed Cup tie against Australia. In the end the teenage prodigy was deemed too much of a light weight, despite a very succesful week in Antwerp this February.

“It didn’t surprise me she put up great results in Antwerp. But it also didn’t surprise me she lost in 2nd rounds of ITF-tournaments right after that,” Haarhuis said during the team presentation in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

“Everybody knows Indy can play incredible tennis. She can play better than anybody in Holland. A lot better than anyone even. But, she can also play much worse than anybody.  I read her trainer said she never plays matches like she plays in practice. That’s the difference. She rarely shows in matches what she can do during practice. I think that during my career I rarely played a match worse than I did in practice. She can gain enormously by just showing during matches what she is showing during practice. She’s a potential Top 10 player, but there is room for tremendous amount of improvement inside her head. During a match, inside her head she isn’t even a top 1000 player.”

Because of the highs her play can reach, Haarhuis thought De Vroome might just be the right player to beat someone like Stosur.

“Yeah I thought about that. It’s just that she’s shown her peak ability so rarely the last 12 months, I shouldn’t throw her off the deep end like that. What she did show is she doesn’t handle pressure well. Playing matches. If there’s one thing you feel even more pressure than an ITF-tournament, it’s a FED-cup tie. She’s from around here, so there’ll be friends and family in the stands who’ll want to see her perform well.

I do hope I can select her soon. Because that would mean her results have convinced me she’s worthy of selection. She’s close though.”

~

Translated by Marco van Elst – @Backstop5

The Case of Lucas Pouille

From the print edition of l’Équipe April 15 2015 by Julien Reboullet @djub22 page 19.

Out of action in March, mediocre practice Monday, winner over Dominic Thiem Tuesday: the twenty-one-year-old Frenchman is on the right road. He challenges Rafael Nadal today.

If ever Lucas Pouille were to provoke a Big Bang event in Monaco by becoming the first Frenchman since Olivier Mutis in 2004 to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay, it would be a completely crazy exploit out of the deep, deep blue. A story of reversing a tendency at the speed of light.

As recently as Monday, the young twenty-one-year-old, just arrived from the indoor Saint Brieuc Challenger tournament – where he lost in the semis to Nicolas Mahut – and who hadn’t played a match on clay in eight months, wasn’t attracting much attention in the stands of the Monte Carlo Country Club after a poor practice session. “It’s simple. He played 1-1 against the number 300 or so ranked Frenchmen,” smiled Emmanuel Planque, his coach, yesterday noon. Smiling because his player had just left the court a winner over Dominic Thiem [6-4, 6-4]. Yes, Thiem, the Austrien who had just played a quarter-final in Miami and is ranked 44 in the world.

That kind of reversal in the space of twenty-four hours deserved the kisses exchanged between player and coach just before they got back to the dressing room. One would almost swear the two pairs of eyes shone just a bit. “I felt the emotion in Lucas,” admitted Planque.

“Interning” with Federer

The success will almost propel his student into the top 100 Monday [he’s now 108, his best ever ranking] A big first for the Northerner. “That barrier preoccupied him, as much because it gives him direct entry into the Slams as  for its symbolism. We brand our players to much in France by telling them, ‘you’ll be a pro when you’re in the top 100.’ Being a pro is more than ranking. It’s an attitude, a relationship to your profession.” Pouille has never been caught out on that score. The baby-faced, blue-eyed boy speaks in a quiet voice in front of the microphones. He’s serious, poised, thoughtful. He knows where he wants to go. And getting from a three-digit ranking to a two-digit is far from being an end in itself. Getting to one digit would closer.

2012(January) – Reaches his best junior ranking of 23
2013(May) – Wins his first round match against the American Alex Kuznetzov, loses in the second round to Grigor Dimitrov
2014(October) – Defeats Nieminen, Karlovic and Fognini to reach the round of 16 at Bercy, where he loses to Federer
2015(January) – First ATP 250 semi-final (Auckland) then an excellent first round at the Australian Open, losing to Monfils 7-6,6-3,4-6,1-6,4-6

The Planque-Pouille duo’s path has almost been like laying bricks. Step by step with precision and caution [see box]. Example: at the end of February, there was an inflamed tendon in the player’s right shoulder. “We treated it with the utmost care and seriousness. Pouille didn’t even wiggle an ear in March. And the tendonitis disappeared.

And if he becomes the 71st Frenchman to get into the top 100 in the forty-two years the ATP rankings have existed, he’s owe a bit … to the Swiss. At the end of 2013 and 2014 Pouille camped out for a week in Lausanne to prepare with Stan Wawrinka. Last February, just before his shoulder problem, he was in Dubai spending a week training with Roger Federer. “Hitting with them is amazing, even though you can’t really quantify what it brings,” says Planque. “You have to realise that there’s a bit of an incestuous side to the CNE (National training centre at Roland Garros). It’s difficult to get into from outside. So it’s important to look elsewhere. And with these guys who have won a Slam, there’s a difference in their concept of playing, in the way they train. What was most noticeable? The extreme precision of Federer and the team around him. It was six hours a day! Two hours of tennis in the morning, two in the afternoon and then two hours of physical training.” Pouille adds: “Realising that I could win a set here and a set there against players of that level, it could help me. If I train with them, it’s also to see how they work.” An experience that can also help demystify (a bit) the fact that he’ll be facing Nadal today? “In any case, he can’t be a spectator,” says Planque. “He’ll have to be extremely aggressive. Show Nadal with his attitude and his tactics and his intensity that he’ll need to work hard.”

And what if …

Translated by MAN

The Lighter side of Timea Bacsinszky – an interview by Svenja Mastroberardino @svenja_mastro

Interview by Svenja Mastroberardino from this piece on Lets Talk Tennis.

With 21 wins this season, of which 13 are consecutive, Timea Bacsinszky is off and running. The high flyer took the time to answer some rather more unusual questions from us at Lets Talk Tennis. In our interview we asked the 25-year-old about being mistaken for another, autographs and her music “sins”.

When did you last get an autograph?

It’s been quite a while. Several years ago I met Roger Tennis in the car park near Swiss Tennis in Biel. But I didn’t dare ask him for an autograph myself, so I sent Pierre Paganini after him and he came back with the autograph.

Hmm … it just occurred to me that wasn’t the last time. At the US Open in 2007 I had sore foot, so Martina Hingis lent me a pair of her shoes. I put them back in her locker after the match. The next day they were lying in my locker. Martina thought she had enough shoes so I could keep them. Then I asked her to autograph them.

When was the last time you were confused for someone else?

-That happened just recently in Acapulco. I was jumping rope to warm up and someone went up to my coach Dimitri and asked if I was Maria Sharapova. That made me laugh. Thank you so much, dear fan, but I’m not that big [laughs].

When was the last time you shared a room with a player?

It was quite a while ago. The last time I shared a room was with Imane Maelle Kocher at the Swiss club competition in 2010. She’s super nice and we laughed a lot together. On the tour it’s even farther back than that, 2007 I think. A former coach once told me that eating and sleeping are the most important things and to get enough of them. Whenever it was financially possible I’ve taken single rooms. Privacy is important for a tennis player.

When was the last time you bought a souvenir?

In Acapulco I bought about 20 small stuffed parrot key fobs. I’ll take them back to Switzerland to give to my nieces, my mother and my friend as small souvenirs. I always try bring a small keepsake from each place I’ve been to. Usually they’re magnets for my fridge – I have about 40 of them. So if someone doesn’t know what to give me, I’m always happy with magnets [laughs].

What was your worst experience travelling?

That would be in 2010 from Los Angeles to Miami. Fires broke out twice on board in the middle of the flight. They turned out to be nothing serious, but there was real panic on the plane. I was very happy when we landed safely.

When was the last time you were complemented by a player?

I have to say I received a lot of congratulations for my two tournament wins, from Aleksandra Krunic among others. I had a long talk with her last year at the ITF tournament in Kreuzlingen. We talked about how difficult it was to come back and climb up the rankings. After my win in Acapulco she hugged me and said, ‘Do you remember our talk? This is great, I’m so happy for you.’ At Indian Wells, Lesia Tsurenko, whom I beat in Acapulco and Monterrey, also congratulated me. It’s nice to hear that from opponents. It doesn’t happen often. I’d like to take this time to thank everyone for the many kind words and messages.

When did you last follow a tennis match on a scoreboard?

Last week for the Davis Cup. I followed all the matches and almost missed breakfast. Huge congratulations to the guys who almost made the impossible possible. Congratulations too to Henri for his performance, it was unbelievable. It was quite exhausting, almost fever-inducing [laughs].

Which musicians/bands on your Ipod are most cringe-worthy?

Hmmm … I have a song by Justin Bieber on my Ipod I thought was pretty good a few years ago, now I hardly listen to it. I have two songs by the Backstreet Boys I never play unless I’m with friends. They give me very funny looks. I still have some Britney Spears, but I’ll delete them soon.

How did you celebrate your wins in Acapulco and Monterrey?

After the win in Acapulco I had dinner with Dimitri and Andreas [Timea’s friend – Ed.] They both drank a glass of wine. I didn’t  because I had a flight the next morning. We captured the moment with a couple of Polaroids. It’s a very nice memory.

In Monterrey we got back to the hotel a 3.30 AM. I then spent 10 minutes alone outside. It was cold but it did me good. I listened to a Massive Attack song then enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then I had to go quickly back to my room and pack my things. Our transportation to the airport was arriving at 5. So we’ll celebrate properly when we’re back in Switzerland. We’ll organize something lovely and invite our friends. I’m really looking forward to it.

Who is your dream partner in doubles and mixed doubles?

With the women, it’s obviously Kim Clijsters. I found her super nice. I’m convinced we’d have a lot of fun together. Justine Henin would also be a great partner. With the men, it’s Roger. But it would be cool with Stan too. What do you think, should I ask him for the Olympic Games in Rio [laughs]? I’d like to play with Nadal too. He’s a defensive wall.

Translated by MAN

Élie Rousset, convicted of ‘match-fixing’ wants to move on with his life – and see the ITF rules changed

From l’Équipe print edition April 7 2015 page 11 by Sophie Dorgan

During a Challenger tournament in Morocco in June 2014, Élie Rousset agreed to give the Italian Walter Trusendi his first round prize money [$352] for the latter, who was ill, forfeiting his match. Rousset would then replace him as first lucky loser. Without the arrangement, the Italian would have started the match then quickly withdrawn, pocketed the prize money and not given Rousset a chance.

Suspended from competition for three months because of this benign arrangement with an ill colleague, the Frenchman has been able to feed off the solidarity of the community.

We’ll be able to see Élie Rousset in a Futures tournament or in a Challenger qualie in June, but not before. The 25-year-old Frenchman, ranked 642 in the world this week, has become, despite himself, a bit of a symbol of this business where it’s sometimes difficult making ends meet. And he’s been comforted in his feeling that he hasn’t done anything wrong by the reactions to the announcement of his three-month suspension two weeks ago. He’s looking forward.

Good for morale

On top of the $2,000 fine, which was covered in a few hours thanks to the solidarity from other players on the circuit, the many positive messages have enabled Élie Rousset to get his morale back. “I was very surprised and happy to get so much support. It really did my morale a lot of good and it confirmed my idea that I didn’t do anything wrong and that the sanction was out of proportion.” The native of Lyon also rang Gilles Simon up. He “took the time to listen,” and he was touched by the tweets on Twitter from certain well-known players like Alizé Cornet, Nicolas Mahut and Adrian Mannarino. He was especially reassured about his fear that he would be considered a dishonest person. Several players told him they would have done the same thing.

OK for national competitions

The Frenchman was afraid of receiving a double penalty by also being suspended from national competitions. But he can breathe easy – the French Federation won’t persue the matter and he can take part in the club competitions in May. “If I’d been stopped from playing the team matches, that would have hurt. Not only financially because it’s a quarter of my income, but also emotionally because I would have had the feeling of letting down the team I’ve been with since I was a kid [Saint-Just Saint-Rambert] where I’m the team number one and where we have our sights set on promotion [National 3 in 2015] every year.”

Good for after

He hesitated, but decided in the end not to appeal. “It would involve me in a long seven or eight month process. I could have done it out of pride, to be able to explain myself to them. But the generally favourable opinions were in the end just as important as an appeals decision. Reason won out over my feelings of injustice. I’d rather use my energy to train rather than get involved in a long procedure. My real victory would be that this rule would be changed.” To do that he’d like for the players in Futures to get together and create a union to “enter into a talks with the ITF and propose a constructive dialogue.”

Translated by MAN