Novak Djokovic: “I felt without motivation.” Équipe interview with Vincent Cognet and @QuentinMoynet — His questions, his doubts, his bouts with the blues: the Serb answers with a lot of sincerity about the last, sensitive year.

Translation of this Équipe online piece.

Rome was a very important week for you. How much relief did you feel about rediscovering that level of game?

-More than relief, it was the result of very hard work and my confidence in the ongoing process. It’s difficult sometimes in recent times to have a broad perspective. There were days, especially in the last twelve months, where I felt unmotivated because of the injury and the challenges that awaited me. But that’s life! There are days where you just have to grit your teeth and gather all your strength to keep on your path, and others where everything is perfect. It was especially important for me to establish day-to-day goals, to reach my long term goals.. I mean what I had to do with my body and my spirit, improve my game, my conditioning and my mental state to reach the level I wanted. My trajectory has always been rising since I turned pro. I’d never missed a single Grand Slam [before the 2017 US Open]. The last six months of 2017 were very strange for me. Not playing, watching matches on the TV, restarting my training and feeling pain again, it was really a challenge for me. I had to accept it. Those are situations that make you stronger. It was good getting rewarded in Rome after all that I’d been through. It was certainly the best tournament I’ve played in the last year in terms of quality of play. Since the last grass season, in fact.

What are the biggest areas you need to improve? Physically, you seem to be far from how you were a few years ago …

I don’t think it’s the physical. The mental is the most important. I still love the sport. I’m still playing because I still feel the desire. If I didn’t, believe me, I wouldn’t be playing. Being loyal to my character and to my values, never letting anyone influence me and my decisions have always been important to me. I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my career that have made me proud. I could stop my career tomorrow and be satisfied with my record, but I’m not motivated only by winning. I don’t play just to win titles and be world number one. Obviously I would like that! But if I play, it’s because tennis is a great platform to have an influence, especially on children. That’s my objective. All great athletes have the chance to make an impact because of their popularity and successes. I can talk to the media every day. It’s a privilege, even if there are days when I don’t feel like talking to them [smiles]. It’s how I can get my message out: by going on court, by doing what I love, by working, by devotion and fight.

Were you in despair after Indian Wells and Miami, where you were just a shadow of yourself? And how did you overcome that dark period?

I didn’t despair, but I didn’t feel good mentally after Miami, that’s true. Losing in the first round at Miami and Indian Wells, that’s never happened to me before [five wins in Indian Wells and 6 in Miami]. I’ve always loved playing there. So it was a big shock for me, to be honest, not because I of the losses, but because of the way I played. But, after two or three days, I realised that I wasn’t sufficiently prepared. I wasn’t ready physically, at playing level and mentally. I’d had an operation four or five weeks before. I came back too quickly. The doctors did a good job, but no one advised me to come back at Indian Wells. They all told me to wait until Miami or the clay season. I insisted because I wanted to play. I skipped the last six months of 2017 because of my elbow. I took six months to recuperate. I wasn’t operated on because no one told me I should. I started to play again and the pain came back. It was so frustrating! So, I got an operation. I asked myself: “What’s happening? Should I cut out now?” And I was impatient. I know it. I wouldn’t say it was my fault. I thought at the time that it was the right decision. I don’t regret it because I know there was a reason for me playing there, to learn a lesson: be more patient and to deal differently next time. It was serious with my elbow. That sort of operation doesn’t only affect the elbow, but the whole body, my game, my confidence. Everything! When you start to overthink during a match, it’s not good. Everything should be automatic. You don’t have time to reflect at this level. You need to be reactive and play. I started to overthink. “Why am I serving like that? Is it the right racquet? My technique? Am I ready physically? Do I need to change my team?” A million things were happening and I wasn’t mentally lucid enough to face them. It’s different now. I’m starting Roland Garros in in a different mental frame, more positive. I’m more comfortable with my game. I know I can still improve it, it’s not at the level I want, but we get there softly.

Between your title here in 2016 and today, did you have periods when you lost your motivation?

Of course. Quite a few times. I’m like everyone. A lot of champions in a lot of sports ask themselves if they should keep going. And if yes, how? For how long? The balance between family life and professional life? But that’s life! You change as a person, you evolve. Today, I can’t concentrate only on myself and my career. I have two kids and they’re the most important part of my life. Without the slightest doubt. It’s taken me some time to find the right balance: how do you do it? It’s become clearer in the last two months. Before, I had highs and lows. It’s the burden of every athlete on the planet. At bottom, I try to remember to be aware. I play this sport I love and I play it at the highest possible level. There are people on this earth who live in conditions where they have no chance to live their dreams. They weren’t born in the right place, But they’re talented. I know, I come from a country that’s known two wars twenty years ago. All that humbles me. I wouldn’t exchange my life for anyone else’s. I’m just trying to grow.

Why did you chose to recall Marian Vajda to your side? Why at this precise moment? How is he different from other coaches?

[He thinks] I can answer those questions with three words: Simplicity. Clarity. Loyalty. Marian knows who I am, both as a person and as a player. Ten years of working together … When I realised I needed someone to who could help me simplify things, to be very clear about my priorities, Marian was the best possible choice. We share the same dreams. He’s much more than a coach. He’s a friend. He’s shared with me the most extreme experiences on a daily basis. He masters situations. He believes in me. He trusts in me and it’s reciprocal. He’s a man who has values, one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.

That’s far beyond just training sessions.

— Absolutely.

Has he changed the content of your training sessions?

There are always technical details to fix whatever shot we work on. One day, your backhand is impeccable, the next not at all. That’s what practice is for: to maintain a certain level and to feel good on the court. With Marian, we started by going back to basics, to understand well the fundamentals of my game, concentrating on my strong points to bring them back up to the surface. I’ve done it before. We just have to be patient. It takes time to build the body, be confident, be competitive. Marian knows that. I find myself very at ease with him.

Getting back to your elbow problems – in Miami especially, everyone was shocked because they didn’t recognise your backhand any more, your forehand …

Me neither, I didn’t recognise them! [Laughs]

Do you feel better now every day?

Actually, it depends on the day. But on the whole, it’s much better today than it was in Miami, for example. I grew up on clay. I love this surface. I’ve had my best results on hard courts, but Roland Garros is a special place for me. And not only because of my title in 2016. I’ve always had good results here. I can’t even remember when I’ve lost before the second week! [In 2009 when he lost in the 3rd round to Philip Kohlschreiber). The crowd is behind me here. I hope all that all that energy will help me get to the level I want.

What would be a good Roland Garros for you?

I try not to have special expectations. those expectations have been a burden for me for the last five or six months. I know the level I can play at. That’s why the matches in Indian Wells, Miami or Barcelona made things difficult. I didn’t understand it. I started to think about it every single day, to try and improve to reach 100% of what I could do. But, in that regard, I don’t come to a tournament just to participate. I come to win. I hope that my game will fall into place and improve in every round. I hope to put myself in a position to lift the trophy.

 

Translated by MAN

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Rafael Nadal: “Very proud of my longevity.” Interviewed by Vincent Cognet of l’Équipe, who asks questions from all directions.

Translated from the print edition of l’Équipe, May 27, 2018, pages 30-31

Relaxed during his Roman week, the Spaniard plays the question game, which come from all angles, some anecdotal, some serious, about him, his life as a champion and his attitude towards tennis.

Rome ten days ago. Rafael Nadal leaves victorious his match against Fabio Fognini. After the presser and food, he plays a game of Parchis (a Spanish board game), then decides to do the interview in the garden annexed to the players’ room. In a comfortable mood, Nadal will nevertheless answer with priceless seriousness.

From the beginning, what made you happiest about tennis?

The competition. In tennis, it’s very intense because it’s every day. and it’s face-to-face. I always loved competition whether it’s sports or games.

So it’s nothing to do with the racquet or the balls?

[Smiles] Seriously, I don’t remember that well.

Many players mention the importance of feeling with a racquet in hand. How do you experience it?

I’m like any other player. I found a simple solution: you need to be positive and play with the right attitude, even when the feeling isn’t there. What’s important is to forget the frustration and accept the situation.

As a kid, did you play pretending to be someone else?

[Firmly] No. I loved training, I loved spending hours and hours at the club. When I was a kid, I could spend entire days at the club playing tennis or something else.

<Did you learn watching others?

Of course. In life, it’s easier to copy than invent. I observe others and try and understand what they do well. It’s not possible to give a specific example because it’s not about copying someone. It’s more seizing the idea the player has in his head and adapting it to your own style. It’s more about positioning, ways of moving and placement in relation to the ball. I’ve watched hundreds or thousands of videos of other players on You Tube to try and seize ideas.

<Even the black and white ones of old players?

Yes, but not for that. If I want to see something specific, I choose present day players.

Who were your idols when you were a kid?

[Thinks] Tough to say. I grew up with Sampras and Agassi. Later, I was close to Carlos Moya [his coach].

Were you for Sampras or for Agassi?

Neither of them. I liked the rivalry.

Does the history of the game interest you?

Of course. It’s very important. It’s the old players who created the values of this game.

Can you watch a match just as a spectator?

Yes. But we know each other so well as players that we understand very quickly what’s happening on the court. Even if we’re not doing a real analysis, it’s impossible to watch a match as an ordinary spectator.

Do you glance at others’ practices?

[Amused] No. Never.

Because you find it boring …

No. When I’ve finished my time I need to do my recovery, my treatments etc. I’m not saying I don’t glance at the court next to me, but never more than five minutes.

Do you watch tennis sometimes late into the night?

Normally, no. Unless there’s a very special reason. Sometimes I’ll watch golf and that can finish sometimes past midnight.

It’s never bothered you the next day?

No! I can sleep five or six hours if I have nothing special on the next day. It’s not the same as going out and drinking a few. If you only sleep five hours after that, it’s not enough. But if I’m watching the TV, relaxing on my sofa, no problem. If I’m there, it’s because I appreciate what I’m doing. So it’s OK.

Do you agree with the commentators when you watch tennis on TV?

[Exhales] Not always. I know it’s a difficult job. I know they have to commentate quite a few matches during a day. It doesn’t shock me if they wander a bit during the match. Honestly, there are some matches that aren’t fascinating. [Amused] But it’s true I don’t always agree with what’s said about the match! What annoys me the most is when spectators show a lack of respect for the players. But that’s it.

Do you understand the existing debate about tennis’ format and the needs of TV?

It’s very complicated. The ideal solution will never exist. But I think it’s important to respect the history of this sport. And to know it very well. It’s tradition that helps our sport to become even bigger. Besides that, I realise that there must be innovation. What could be done is try the innovations at small tournaments. But don’t touch the big tournaments. There can’t be changes that are too drastic. Move forward in small steps. We can’t get rid of five set matches at Slams. They’re what create the dramas and the most exciting matches. Even if they’re not perfect for the TV, they’re terrific for the spectators. All the emotions, all the passion, come from those matches. If we touch them, tennis will lose a lot. The most important matches in tennis history have been played in five sets.

Are you interested in statistics or records?

Yes, but not crazily. Sure, I know that our generation have broken a lot of records, and that makes me happy.

Are you a stats nut?

Not really. I like checking some things, but … Carlos [Moya], on the other hand, loves them and it’s interesting talking with him after my matches. They can help some things, like court positioning etc. But I’m not going to lose my day reading numbers.

Do you know any stats about you that are less well known to the general public?

Absolutely not. When I beat a record, it’s often you, the journalists, who tell me. The best example is my fifty straight sets won on clay. I only found out about it during it.

Beating records helps motivation?

[Hesitates] It depends. But my real motivation is going out on court every day and playing in the biggest stadiums in the world in front of thousands of spectators. Playing in a stadium filled to bursting with passionate spectators, that’s really a very special feeling.

When we think deeply about it, twelve years between your first major and the last, isn’t that a bigger thing than the sixteen titles?

I’m very proud of my longevity. [A bit mockingly]. Especially because they didn’t stop telling me during my career that I wouldn’t last long as a player because of my playing style. I ended up believing it! I’m very happy to still be competitive at 32. Because it says a lot. It means showing that you can keep the same mentality and the same passion for a very long time.

Would you have been able to share your life with a woman who knew nothing about tennis?

My partner loves tennis. She loved it before we met. But I could very well have lived with a woman who knew nothing about tennis [laughs]. I haven’t tried, but there wouldn’t be a problem. My partner and I talk very little about tennis.

Do you sometimes talk tennis with people who know nothing about it?

[Amused] I can. If they don’t pretend to know, no problem. If the opposite’s the case, I let them talk!

What would you change in the way the tour operates?

I favour a two year ranking and not fifty-two weeks. It’s the best way to protect players in case of injury. I’ve thought that for years, but it’s even more important at the end of a career.

And in the rules of tennis?*

I don’t know how, but attention needs to be paid to the serve and to power in general. The players are bigger and bigger and it’s getting faster and faster. If we don’t find a solution to the serve, then tennis will reach a point where it’s summed up by that shot. In ten years, tennis could be in danger.

Are you for or against cutting out one of the serves?

Why not? We can’t say it’s stupid. We can only try it out. I’m in favour of innovations. Why not try it at small tournaments? I don’t know … But we could at least consider it.

Do you sometimes play tennis on the Play Station?

Never. Even when I was a kid. I play football on the Play Station. Tennis, I play that all day.

In your opinion, what players have contributed the most to the game?

I can’t answer that question. To answer it, I’d have to have lived in the different eras. It’s an interesting question, but you’d have to ask someone who knows the 1960’s or 1970’s. I know who Rod Laver, Björn Borg or John McEnroe are. But I can’t judge their importance because I wasn’t there.

When you watch old videos on You Tube, who is your favourite player?

Tough to say. I like Ilie Nastase. But I like the tennis of that era because power is less important. There’s more magic. Talent counts for more, tactics too. There was more point construction. That’s what I miss in the tennis of today. Clay is the last surface where you can still construct points. You can still try things. On hard, it’s become almost impossible. It’s too fast.

*Added 21:15

Translated by MAN

 

Toni Nadal, interviewed in l’Équipe by @djub22, on why he’s worried about the direction modern tennis is taking

From this article online at l’Équipe Julien Reboullet.

Does today’s tennis, the game you see while travelling around the world with your nephew, please you?

–- In general, not very much. I like games of strategy, of skill, not a game for the game’s sake. I like when there’s thought. Thinking a bit, that counts, no?

You think there’s too much hitting?

– In contemporary tennis, we had a long period with a Roger Federer as the best in the world, of course. A fantastic technician. But there’s recently been an evolution towards a very quick game without strategy, where it’s boom boom boom on every point. Today, clay specialists are considered labourers who push the ball back. Then, on the other hand, we have those who just hit shots. But a game that just consists of hitting, that’s baseball!

Isn’t that just an evolution that suits the times?

– I’ve read some books about the civilisation of spectacle. The role of sports in our epoch can’t be compared with its role in Antiquity. Those who attended the Academy (the school of philosophy found by Plato in Athens in the 4th century AD . Ed) understood sports in a very clear manner: physical activity complemented intellectual activity. It developed certain positive aspects of character like effort, discipline, strategy. All that differentiates us from animals, no? Today our sport is moving away from all that.

But why?

– My view is that perhaps the bosses don’t decide who’ll win or be number one, but at least the type of game that will dominate. The rules imposed give direction to the game.

Tennis may have a rule problem?

– The rules of many sports have changed because the size of the athletes has changed, or their power, or their equipment. But I haven’t seen change in tennis. Since the introduction of the tie-break in the 1970’s, I haven’t seen any. The physiques of the players now is nothing like it was twenty years ago. Neither is their equipment. The training intensity is nothing like it was, neither is the professionalism. But the bosses have kept the same difficulties in the game. Which leads to this inconsistency: in what other sport does a point start with a penalty? Because that’s the case in tennis with the serve. The returner looks like a goalkeeper during a series of penalty shots.

But if your nephew Rafael was two metres tall and served at 250 kph, perhaps that would suit you, no?

– Careful! If you think that you’re confusing everything. You’re being personal. What I’m telling you isn’t about Rafael. Whether he’s still playing or isn’t has nothing to do with my way of looking at things. I’m speaking as a spectator who’s thinking about the game in general. Besides, as Rafael’s coach, I don’t want anything to change. He’s won fourteen Slams and has had an extraordinary career with the rules I’m criticising and the evolution I’m regretting. I’m not an idiot! I’m someone who has preferences and isn’t alone.

Which means?

— I’ll put a question to you: which points get the most applause?

The most spectacular ones …

— And? …

In general, the longer rallies …

– Exactly. Do you know which player got the most applause in IPTL matches during its Asian swing last December? Fabrice Santoro! Because he can do everything, a stop volley followed by a lob … everything … Which players do we choose to like: those who can create like him, or a player who just hits everything that moves super hard?

You think that other sports have been better to adapt?

– Obviously. Look how football (soccer) has evolved! At the World Cup in Italy in 1990, what happened? A tonne of matches with very few goals. 1-0 or 1-1 if we were lucky. It was obvious that it was necessary to produce something more entertaining for the spectators. So in the wake of that World Cup, two things were changed: the pass back to the goalkeeper was forbidden and three points for a win – instead of two – were awarded. That changed the quality of the spectacle completely. And who’s the best in football today? The strongest physically? No, the most skilled. Messi, Neymar and others …

You would never go and watch Raonic-Kyrgios, if we follow you properly …

– I’ll go because they’re a part of the present game. But if I weren’t involved in tennis at a high level like I’ve been for more than ten years, it’s certain that I’d would watch a skill player rather than a player who hits. Because I like strategy. In football, a Cristiano? He’s phenomenal, no doubt about that. But I prefer a Messi, or a Xaví, who undoubtedly play with more thought. That’s the way I feel in any case.

After Rafael’s losses to Rosol or Kyrgios at Wimbledon, you let it be understood that their game wasn’t tennis …

– No no no, I never said that. It’s tennis because it’s according to the rules of tennis. I’m saying it’s not a tennis that pleases me, but I didn’t say I was right. I said tennis is getting faster, that hitting winners is getting easier. Like Kyrgios is a super player who could end up number one. Take Zverev, for example. He’s a formidable player with very good control. He’s plays quick and serve hard. Happily, there are still players that control like Djokovic. But I think evolving, adapting is essential in present society. Everything goes so quickly in life. Paying to watch a match without rallies? To me, that’s a poor programme. But I don’t claim to have the absolute truth, heh!

Let’s go back to changes. Toni, what should be changed in tennis?

– There are plenty of things we can change, but we have to choose. To me, we need a change in equipment above all. Before, the racquets had very small heads, which required a much greater mastery of technique. But you need to look at the debate from a larger point of view: what counts is not what I would change, it’s more encompassing. It’s what type of player do we want to watch, what sort of spectacle do we want to offer? And by answering that fundamental question, we can evolve the rules. We criticise the time taken between points, but it’s relative. If that time taken leads to longer rallies rather then 3-4 shot rallies, like the large majority of those we saw at the last Australian Open, who wins by it?

If there were only one serve, for example? …

– I don’t think that would be too radical. We need a more general consideration of the importance of the serve. But, again, I’d prioritise more though about the materials – smaller racquet heads, larger balls or at least less quick, and some other things. The conditions of the game lead to great difficulty in controlling the ball, and I’m including the amateur level there. When you’re playing a sport, why are you doing it? To sweat, to have a good time. In tennis today, you hardly even sweat. And you seldom have a good time. Because the ball goes out too much.

Why not be a part of committees about the future of the game?

(Makes a face) The present leaders have a problem, they’re generally old. Very conservative about changes.

You’re starting your tennis academy in Manacor. What will its philosophy be?

– Apply what the current game tells me, quite simply. If it tells me that you absolutely need to hit hard, than they’ll learn to hit hard.

It’s the world tennis bosses that tell you, in some way, how you form your players?

– Obviously, yes. I see a lot of young players at the academy. Oh my! That hit at 2000 at everything, even without any control. They hit, hit, hit. I’ll adapt to what my sport demands. I’d rather insist on the technique, determination, on how, with your spirit you can overcome technical problems, for example. But if it’s another sort of tennis that works, let’s teach that. After, you risk that people applaud less and less. It’s working right now, because people come to see the personalities and there are phenomenal ones. But never forget they also come to watch a match.

Translated by MAN

Yevgeny Kafelnikov talks Russian tennis, compares ATP eras, & more

From an interview with Kafelnikov, a multiple-Slam champion, conducted by B92’s Saša Ozmo before the men’s semifinals at Roland Garros.

On Russian tennis, more successful of late on the WTA side:
“It’s much easier to produce top female players than top male players for many reasons.  Young guys don’t have that spark and don’t believe they can reach the top—but I hope that we’ll see a change with Andrey Rublev.  He was the best junior last year, is still only 17 years old, and is getting better all the time.  He’s growing and becoming more mature—hopefully, he’ll be the one we’ve long sought.  He has a champion’s attitude, which is very important, plays aggressively, is good from the baseline, and has nice technique.  I told him and his team that he needs to work on his physical strength, because he plays a great set but then runs out of energy.  He’ll be a very good player if he gets stronger.”

On the possibility of coaching:
“If I see potential and the project appeals, then I might agree.  Coaching is a lot of work, which is clear from former colleagues like Becker, Ivanišević… I see them often, but don’t ask about the details—I don’t think that’s relevant.  However, I observe how they’re handling it and it seems to me they’re happy and doing a good job.  The players they’re training listen to them and respect them; if I find something like that, maybe I’ll become a coach, too.”

On the ATP, then & now:
“I have no regrets at all about retiring early [in 2003, a few months before turning 30].  Honestly, I can’t explain how players are still capable of playing in their later years—Federer is soon 34 and still playing at a high level.  I think the reason for this is that today’s average level of play is much lower than in our time.  Actually, I talked to Boris about it only a few days ago, and he agreed.  So, the best can keep enjoying it and winning Grand Slam titles, since no one else can come close.  In our time, there were 15-20 guys who could potentially win a Grand Slam trophy, but it’s not so right now.”

“The whole approach is different.  In our era, there were many more styles of play than exist now: there were serve-volley players, a lot of ‘chip & charge.’  Now, for the most part, everyone plays from the baseline and tries to strike the ball as hard as he can.  This isn’t the direction tennis should go—I think we need different modes of play.  But nothing’s likely to change if we don’t do something about the courts.  It seems to me that every tournament is played on the same [speed] surface—even Wimbledon is now similar to concrete.  If that doesn’t change, the situation will remain as it is.”

On Nadal’s future:
After the Spaniard’s victory over Djoković in the 2014 Roland Garros final, Kafelnikov made a bold forecast: that it was the last trophy for Nadal in Paris.  He maintains that position.  “So far, my prognosis is accurate.  I love Rafa—he’s a great guy, an excellent tennis player, and has achieved much success.  However, last year I felt (for the first time) that he’s becoming physically weaker.  In previous years, he played much closer to the baseline, and now it’s different, especially in the match with Novak—Djoković was inside the court and dictating the pace while Rafa stood four meters back.  The trend continues: Rafa is already 29 and can’t beat opponents by outrunning them, particularly in best-of-five matches.  Along with that, it doesn’t feel like there’s the same intimidation factor in the air—players aren’t afraid of Rafa any more.  So, I stand by my prediction.  While I’d like it to happen, I’d be shocked if Rafa wins another Grand Slam trophy.”

On his career & retirement:
“It feels good when I look back on it.  I was lucky that I caught different eras, playing with Becker and Edberg, then with Agassi and Sampras, and even Federer after that.  In fact, I competed with three generations of top players, so I’m very satisfied with my career and what I achieved.”

Having dabbled in professional poker in the first years after leaving tennis, Kafelnikov has since found another pastime.  “Poker is my past, but I try to play golf as much as possible, to see how good I can become.  It’s my daily life—I play golf every day for four to six hours.”

 

~ Translated from Serbian by Ana Mitrić.

We are not robots: interview with Jerzy Janowicz

Original source:  http://www.sport.pl/tenis/1,64987,17841694,Tenis__Janowicz__Nie_jestesmy_robotami_zaprogramowanymi.html

“We are not robots, programmed to win.”

There’s a saying ‘What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.’ Is that’s how you look at injuries? After another foot problem or – as it happened a year and a half ago and recently – with your spine, do you come back on a court mentally stronger?

I think that when it comes to injuries you can’t say they make you mentally stronger. It’s very frustrating because when an athlete in is in good shape and an injury happens you have to start from scratch. If it’s a prolonged injury, a return to good form can take many weeks. That’s what happened to me, when I had a serious spine injury a year and a half ago  and when I came back, my foot got injured. I couldn’t prepare for the following season and the effects of it affected my whole 2014 season.

In recent years players and experts have noticed an increasing dominance of hard courts on WTA and ATP tours. Some prefer more surface diversity and say that cement puts more demand on the body and because of that causes more injuries. Others believe that a body gets used to a surface and it’s healthier to change it less frequently. What’s your opinion?

To be honest, I prefer diversity. It’s not a problem for me to play on a clay, hard or grass court. What matters to me is if it’s outdoors or indoors. I would like to see more indoor tournaments. Indoor and hard courts – they’re my favourite tournaments.

Do you put great importance to Madrid and Rome or rather – because you’re coming back from an injury – treat them as preparation before Roland Garros? Or maybe do you want the clay season to finish as quickly as possible and can’t wait for the grass season?

All tournaments are equally important to me. Madrid and Rome are very prestigious, with a lot of points to gain, and that’s necessary if you want to advance in the rankings. Of course I’m excited about the grass season, especially that we’ve got one more grass tournament this year– Stuttgart. So the grass season will be a bit longer.

In general, players prefer to play against high-ranked opponents as late as possible. Your mum told me once that you prefer to fight more demanding opponents straight away. Does it help you with motivation?

First rounds of every tournament are difficult, no matter who you have to face. But it’s true, I prefer to play against better opponents. You play on a bigger court, in front of a bigger crowd and stronger support. And I like this kind of atmosphere. It mobilizes me more. But I treat every opponent in the same way and take every match seriously.

Are you superstitious? Some say there is a ‘Hopman Cup curse’. You and Agnieszka Radwańska started the year with a success in that event but right after that she started to have problems with her form. In February you reached a final in Montpelier but had to withdraw from the match because of an illness. Not everything has been to your liking since then…

I don’t believe in superstitions. My bad form in Montpelier was a coincidence, it was an infection that hit me really hard. It could have happened in any place, at any time. As for Agnieszka, she’s been a top player for many years. Maybe she’s going through a rough patch now but it can happen to anybody. We are human, we’re not robots programmed to win. Agnieszka is a very experienced player and she will deal with her problems. It’s a long time to the end of the season.

She has been saying recently that you can’t look at your opponent’s ranking position only, because it’s usually lower than it should be and doesn’t reflect a player’s skills. Do you share this opinion? How important for you is your ranking position?

To be honest, I don’t make any ranking plans before a season starts. I want to win matches and advance in the rankings but I don’t aim for top 20 this year and top ten next year. It will be great if I’m in the top 20 but I won’t despair if it doesn’t happen. Of course, your position in the rankings is important, it allows you to play in a given tournament. But rankings don’t play matches and they don’t determine that a player from the second hundred can’t win with a top 20 player. Life shows that it happens very often. It’s a rivalry and everybody wants to win when they step on a court.

A couple of months ago you were a guest in Turbokozak and got to show your football skills. Are you a football fan? Do you support any particular team? Or maybe you prefer volleyball –  because of your mum, a volleyball player, or your ties with Skra Bełchatów players?

I’m not a football fan and I don’t support any team but I enjoyed being in Turbokozak. I prefer volleyball and I go to see matches if I can. I friendly with Marcin Wlazły. I had an opportunity to play volleyball in a charity match in Częstochowa and I think I did pretty well. I like watching sports, especially with Polish players.

“I’ll continue as long as I can” – Amélie Mauresmo on Fed Cup and a bit about Murray – interviewed by l’Équipe’s @sophiedorgan

From the Équipe print edition April 16 2015 page 13. Interview by Sophie Dorgan

Amélie Mauresmo, pregnant, won’t revise her commitments with the French team. As for her coaching role with Andy Murray, she hopes to be with him until Wimbledon, then take stock with the Brit.

In a friendly atmosphere, the French Fed Cup team gets set to take on the current title holders, the Czech Republic, in the semi-finals Saturday and Sunday in Ostrava. Caroline Garcia, who arrived on Monday a day after her team mates, is recovering and her partners are acclimatising themselves to a surface considered “neutral” by Alizé Cornet, not too fast, not too slow. As for the captain, Amélie Mauresmo, who’s had the job since 2012, she prefers only to talk tennis. She only talks about her pregnancy, which she made public a week ago, in passing before coming back to her priority for the week: the Fed Cup.

You announced your pregnancy last Thursday, with the birth expected in August. How will that change your calendar?

It won’t change any of my Fed Cup commitments. As for Andy, we’ve talked about continuing as long as possible, which means including Wimbledon [June 29-July 12]. After we’ll talk quietly about the follow-up to our collaboration [begun last summer].

You’ll be making a professional choice?

“Of course.”

You say it changes nothing for the Fed Cup, but if you win this weekend [the final is set for November 14-15. The other final this weekend is Russia-Germany], you won’t be able to follow your players. Will you function differently?

I won’t be at the US Open [August 31-September13], but that won’t change things much. Since I started working with Andy, I’m not at all of their matches. There’ll be times when I can talk to the girls. I’m not at all worried about that. I’ve known them for a few years now. If someone needs to be with the French or their opponents, Gabi [Urpi, coach of the French team] will take care of it.”

I have a course of action and I’m sticking to it

We know that you were pregnant during the last meeting with Italy [3-2, February 8, last round]. It must have been wrenching emotionally?

I totally cracked at the end [smiles]. It was very tough. It would have been in any case having just arrived from Australia [after the final lost by Murray to Djokovic] together with the fatigue from the trip and the intensity of accompanying a player of that level to the final of a Grand Slam. I had the duty and responsibility of steering this French team into becoming the best it could be. It wasn’t easy, but it’s probably one of the best weeks we’ve ever experienced.”

To what do you attribute this French team’s success? Mature players, a solid staff and a bit of luck?

When you talk about achievement in sport, success is inevitable at certain times. But you have to induce them at a certain point, make some choices that are a bit daring, be strict about certain things. I have a course of action and I’m sticking to it. We have a young team, the girls are maturing, improving and realising so many things individually. I always tell them: “The stronger you are individually, the stronger the French team is. And the group gives you things as individuals.”

You’ve evolved too in your role.

Of course, I learn during every round and outside about how to position myself in relation to their individual structures. Now there’s a symbiosis.

How will you tackle this meeting with the Czech Republic?

It’s a heck of a challenge. What happened during our last round has expanded our horizons, even if we’re far from being favourites. The goal is to play our cards right and be opportunistic this weekend.

There’s a lot of talk about the return of Petra Kvitová, who was absent from the American swing [fatigue]. What are your thoughts?

We don’t know. That’s why we’re not focussing on Kvitová [ranked 4 in the world]. We haven’t seen her compete recently, first of all, and we’re not sure she’ll be on court. So, perhaps more so than in other rounds, we’re concentrating more on ourselves. The girls have all arrived in different states, and our priority is getting into the best shape possible Saturday and Sunday.

You’ve taken on a left-handed hitting partner, Jonathan Dasnières of Veigy, to prepare for possible lefties Kvitová and Šafářová (13th)

I like everything to be covered. It might be the little detail that makes the difference. If the girls who have hit with “Jon” hit a winner on break point off a lefty serve, there you go … It may not happen, but we’re giving ourselves every chance.

Translation by MAN

Wiktorowski talks Radwanska, technique, and surface slow-downs

Original source: http://www.sport.pl/tenis/1,64987,17755508,Trener_Radwanskiej__Najgorsze__co_mozna_zrobic__to.html

Jakub Ciastoń: It seemed that in a small tournament in Katowice, in front of her own audience, Agnieszka would try to rebuild her form and confidence in this season, but the semifinal she lost to Camila Giorgi brought us all to earth. What’s happening to Agnieszka?

Tomasz Wiktorowski: For the last four years we were all happy and sometimes on cloud nine because Agnieszka played really great but now we have to put our feet on the ground, very firmly, because things don’t come easy now. But nobody is giving up. Nevertheless, I’m tired of questions posed in such a way, of having to analyze each match in isolation, each and every week. If you disregard the first couple of games in the first set, the match against Giorgi was definitely not good. The fact that the Italian lost the final proves that she was beatable. She played under greater pressure in the final because she was the favourite, but for us it’s not an excuse. Nothing fundamental has changed for Agnieszka this week so I don’t even pick up the phone because I have nothing new to say. We are working on improvements but we need time, patience, solidity and support.

This is the weakest start of the season in Agnieszka’s career. She lost a similar match against Heather Watson in Indian Wells. She was able to deal with aggressive opponents like Watson and Giorgi in the past, it’s Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova that were problematic.

But times have changed. We can’t analyze Agnieszka’s tennis in isolation from what’s happening. Today, there are several players that play like Williams or Sharapova and tens of those who are a bit weaker. The level is higher, we have young guns like Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys, Pliskova or Elina Svitolina, players like Simona Halep, Lucie Safarova, Ekaterina Makarova or Carla Suarez Navarro have been playing better. Malcontents will always complain that the level of women’s tennis is low but if they stop pointlessly comparing it to the men’s tennis, they will see something else. We notice changes and we have to adapt.

So we have to accept that Agnieszka’s level will inevitably decline?

A change of guard will happen, slowly. Agnieszka is not one of the youngest players at the top. In 2007 a teen Agnieszka beat Martina Hingis. Did the Swiss despair after the match? Did she retire? No, she continued to play and tried to change something. Agnieszka has to adapt too because she will not have a chance to win with newcomers by playing her old, defensive tennis.
If Agnieszka doesn’t modify her style a bit, it will be harder and harder, with time, because physically she works 30-40% more than her opponents during matches, she runs 1-2 km more. Tennis based on running will have to be limited as years pass. That’s why conditioning is so important, Agnieszka pays a lot of attention to it, but at some point she won’t be able to cheat time.

That’s why you talked about a necessary revolution in Agnieszka’s game – moving forward, better serve, return, taking the initiative. Sometimes we can see the effects, but not in matches against Watson or Giorgi.

I watch Agnieszka, I can see that she’s torn between continuing what she’s been doing for 20 years and trying a more aggressive tennis. When she employs new elements, plays aggressively, closer to the lines, takes risk with the return, I can see that she can do it, very effectively. But moments like these are still too scarce. In difficult moments she moves back. We have been working on these things for three, four months though, it’s not enough. You have to regenerate during a tournament, travel in-between, rest, there wasn’t much work on a court. But don’t ask me how much time we need, I don’t know that myself.

Nobody speaks much about Agnieszka’s technique which also forms a kind of a barrier?

It’s much more difficult for Agnieszka to play offensive tennis because she can’t generate lots of power in her shots. She doesn’t use the twist of the shoulder girdle and leg well enough. She learnt to play on super-fast surfaces where the ball accelerated very quickly and it was sufficient just to put the racket on the ball. This sequence of movements is encoded now and very difficult to modify. It’s not helpful against aggressive opponents on slower courts. In the last five years all surfaces have slowed down, even the grass at Wimbledon, which is hard to believe. The British use a different mix now which slows the ball after the bounce, on purpose.

Agnieszka can’t grow any taller but she can develop stronger muscles, and recently she’s lost some weight, too much even.

It is a problem… We talk with Agnieszka about it all the time. That’s all I can say.

Every tennis player goes through a crisis. Woźniacka, Azarenka, Kerber, even Sharapova, they dropped out of the top ten, then came back. Will Agnieszka manage as well?

We can’t judge her whole though that Wimbledon final. There are better and worse moments in everybody’s life, Agnieszka is going through a worse phase now but it’s normal in tennis. I can name 20 players whose careers were rocked by bigger shocks. If we analyze it closely, it’ll turn out that compared to them Agnieszka is dealing with it really well. The worst thing to do is to sit and cry. Agnieszka is not doing that, she’s focused on the future.

Martina Navratilova also believes that this revolution will be successful?

We all believe that.

Are you still working with Martina?

She will be with us at Roland Garros, maybe also before Madrid. We will work together until Wimbledon, then we’ll see, what’s next.

~

Translation by @jesna3