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

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

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

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

But you understand the players’ position …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s important?

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

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

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

Are the ATP and the WTA equally good as organisations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by MAN

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Interview with WTA Rising Star, Magda Linette

Original article: http://www.przegladsportowy.pl/tenis,magda-linette-nominowana-w-turnieju-wta-rising-stars,artykul,604497,1,289.html

Andrzej Soboń: You have been nominated for the WTA Rising Stars event that will be played alongside the WTA Finals in Singapore – is it a big honour in your opinion? How do you like your chances in the voting?

Magda Linette: I knew what nominations were about and I was really glad when I got an email from WTA. I remember a situation from a year ago when I was training with a player who took part in it. It’s an opportunity to see the WTA Finals from the inside. This competition is only a small part of it but it would be a great adventure! I know that Bojana Jovanovski or Caroline Garcia are ahead of me when it comes to success and they’re more popular than me. I’m happy about having been nominated. I’m secretly counting on the possibility that I’ve been able to gain at least a little of fans’ support and that’s enough for the second place which will give me the entry.

If you take a look back at your match against Agnieszka Radwańska at the US Open, would you change something in your game?

I’d play more calmly at the beginning. Now, thanks to experience, I’d know what to expect. I’d be more relaxed coming out on the court, more regular. I wouldn’t give away so many free points, especially at the beginning. Tactics would be similar, it wasn’t bad. I had too many unforced errors. Maybe I could have played more offensively but I got pushed back and gave her chances to play deep and high balls. I could have gone to the net in a couple of key points, play aggressively. Yes, I’d work on that.

Your first match in the second round in a major tournament made you more nervous than usual?

I don’t think so… I was just nervous before a match against Agnieszka. We had a bigger court in round two, I also knew that more people would be watching it. The fact that it was the second round didn’t hinder me, on the contrary, it helped me – I could be calmer because of the money. I earned more, so I knew it would be easier to work during the second part of the season. I gained more points so I won’t have to worry about defending my points from the previews season.

You had your leg wrapped at the US Open. Was it a serious injury?

I had a pulled muscle but that bandage hindered me in the first match so I didn’t put it back on. It’s all right now, fingers crossed. I hope I won’t see more plasters or bandages because I’ve had enough of them lately!

You said you’re focusing on your serve. How’s the training going?

We started working on it not that long ago. I had had some shoulder problems, I had to get stronger. My frame is not too imposing, we had to work hard to straighten it up, to make me stronger so that I could train properly. Before we managed that, when I’d served an hour or more, I had my arm bandaged for a week or two after. The workload was too big. We are beginning to work harder on my serve just now and there’s still a lot to do. We want to make it more effective and sustain it over a lot of matches. Of course, that’s not the only thing we’re working on but we want to visibly improve this element.

You are a bit on the sidelines of the Polish team, you haven’t been a part of the Polish Fed Cup team for some time. What’s your relationship with Agnieszka and her team?

I think that this recent Fed Cup team was really Radwańskas’ team which is still functioning. I just didn’t feel I belonged there. I practise in Croatia, I have Croatian coaches that aren’t on good terms with Polish coaches. But my relationship with both sisters is quite good. We’re not friends but we chat nicely, we joke. And not being in the centre of it all helps. Gives me more peace.

You have a new Fed Cup captain. Do you think he will be more inclined to make you a part of the team than Tomasz Wiktorowski?

To be honest, I hope so. The Olympic Games in Rio are not far and I’d love to play there. But there are rules, you have to participate in Fed Cup in order to qualify to the Olympics. Even if I’m eligible because of my WTA ranking position, I won’t meet the requirements and I won’t qualify. Playing at the Olympics is my dream. It’s amazing, it’s only held once in four years. It would be incredible to be a part of not only the show, but also history. I know I have to earn my place in the team. Before the Fed Cup matches, Ula Radwańska had better results than me. I have always tried to play as well as I can. I couldn’t have had more say on the selection process than that.

What are your plans for the upcoming weeks?

I’ll be in Asia til the end of the year. I did quite well last year, in Ningbo for example. I’ll be playing WTA tournaments now, we will see how I will perform in first five events. If I get enough points to qualify for the main Australian Open draw, I will probably play only those five or six. If my results are not good enough to realize this goal, then I’ll enter some minor WTA and ITF tournaments.

Do you like the Asian atmosphere more than European or the one in the USA?

I like Asia, it seems to me that my game matches well against players here. I like places that are a bit on the outside, there’s less pressure. I’m not used to being surrounded by many people. It’s probably a key factor, it’s difficult for me to hold my concentration in places like courts at the US Open. But when it comes to climate, Asia is more difficult. I like competition, it gives me more energy. I like bigger challenges. Sometimes we laugh with my coach that the more difficult the conditions, the better it is for me!

Does the Asian climate and culture appeal to you? Do you like the lifestyle there?

People in Asia are very nice and helpful. Even if they don’t speak English, which happens a lot in China, they smile a lot and you get it when they say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”  They are very nice, they don’t get angry when you want something from them. They do it in a really nice way and I can’t even get irritated. I’ve been preparing for the season here and I’ll probably do the same before the next one. I spend a lot of time here. I got to like Chinese food but you have to know where to go. When you are with people who live here and who know where to go and what to order, then it’s a nice change for us, Europeans. Asian dishes are incomparable to what we can get in Europe or in the USA. It’s also not very expensive here, even in best hotels. And the standard is very good.

Do you try to find some time to get to know these places during your preparation?

We are really trying! I’ve been hoping to see Tokyo but it’s raining all the time. One of my coaches really likes sightseeing so if I’m not too tired after practice, we try to go somewhere. We managed to see a lot in Hong Kong. We’ll be in Beijing soon, so I hope to go a bit farther and see the Great Wall because I didn’t do it last year and I regret it a lot. I also like karaoke here despite the fact that I can’t sing at all.

Do you try to sing in Chinese?

No, they’re English songs! You can really have a great time here but you have to be willing to learn about the culture and the people.

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Translation: https://twitter.com/jesna3