“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

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“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.

Swedish interview with Jonas Björkman on his Murray trial: “It will be a tough challenge”

From http://www.tennis.se/Nyheter/Nyheter/MurrayanlitarBjorkmanHankanblivarldsetta/ by Johanna Jonsson

Jonas Björkman might soon be back on the ATP tour – as a coach for the world nr. 4 Andy Murray. “I’m super excited to be asked,” said the Swede to tennis.se.

Andy Murray might strengthen his coaching staff with Swedish competency. 42-year-old Jonas Björkman is a hot topic for the job as assistant coach beside Amélie Mauresmo.

The parties will test the collaboration for a week.

” I met with him constantly when I was in Australia and afterwards I talked with his agent who wondered if Andy could give me a call. We’ve spoken several times since, both he and I and Amélie and I. It’s been going on for the last two to three weeks. It’s really good. I’m super excited to be asked such a great question,” says Björkman.

If the test week goes well, Björkman will work with Murray for 20 weeks a year. Head coach Mauresmo has 25 weeks in her contract.

“The way it looks now, Amélie and I will be together at certain times. We’ll share a bit during those periods. It feels really good after talking with them and it’s been interesting hearing how they’ve worked together the last eight-nine months,” says Björkman.

“Want to add more positive energy”

Björkman had a top ranking of four in singles and eight in doubles. His list of merits includes 54 doubles titles, of which nine are Grand Slams. He has six singles titles and two Grand Slam semi-finals. He retired in 2008.

As his coach, Björkman hopes to add his own strengths and help his new pupil to become more aggressive.

“He has a tendency to be very defensive, but the match against Berdych at the Australian Open was the best I’ve seen him play in a long while. The aggressiveness was wonderful to see and I think he needs to work on that. We talked after that about being more aggressive with his returns and work more on his volleying, how he moves forward and positions himself.

“It will be a tough challenge for me. Then I want to add more positive energy. Sometimes he has certain periods where he gets down on himself a bit too much,” says the Swede.

“Can threaten Novak for the number one ranking”

Murray’s best ranking is number two in the world, but Björkman sees number one potential in the Brit.

“The steps are big from three to two to one, even if it’s only one ranking spot. Age-wise he’s at his absolute peak now and onwards. I think he has every chance to win several Grand Slams and could threaten Novak (Djokovic) for the number one spot. Those are his goals and hopefully I can be there with him on the journey,” says the 42-year-old.

But before the parties can test the collaboration, Jonas Björkman has one more duty to fulfil – as a participant in the Swedish entertainment programme “Let’s Dance”.

“I hope I have some dancing weeks left. Then we’ll try and find a suitable week,” says Björkman.

Andy Murray stopped his years-long collaboration with assistant coach Dani Vallverdu before the start of this season.

Novak Djoković on “respect”

From an interview on RTS, Serbian national television, conducted by Nenad Stefanović and aired on a 23 February 2015 episode of “Svedok” (“Eyewitness”).

During the Australian Open. . . your coach, Boris Becker, said that you don’t get as much respect as you should, being the #1 player in the world—“the man in town,” as he put it.  How did you understand his comments and have you talked about it?

“Yes, we’ve talked a lot about such topics, even before that interview.  Naturally, that’s a component of my career.  Generally, as a player and a person, on and off the court, I take everything that goes on around me very seriously and professionally and try, accordingly, to behave with dignity and respect.

I’m aware of the fact that Federer and Nadal, given their long-term success and the results they’ve achieved on the international level, are still—even though I’m number one—the two most popular active tennis players.  But I don’t mind that at all.  On the contrary, it allows me to grow in another regard and perhaps relieves certain kinds of pressure.

Also, I wouldn’t completely agree with the assertion that I don’t get or enjoy enough respect in the tennis and sports world.  In fact, my whole team did a lot of strategic work in order to obtain positive media coverage.  Along with that, I was simply brought up a certain way; I came from a culture in which respect and appreciation—the positive things in life—are valued.  So, I don’t pay too much attention to criticism, even though I’m aware that without it there’s no personal development, nor can one see things from other perspectives…”

To return a bit to this theory of a lack of respect, if it’s at all valid.  One of the sport’s leading experts, Nick Bollettieri, said that he thinks you’re the most complete player in the history of tennis… Geniuses, whether in tennis or something else, don’t choose where they’re born.  Is it possible that one problem with regard to respect is that you come from a country of, let’s say, “bad guys”—from Serbia, whereas, in tennis, there’s generally a belief that great players only come from great nations?

“Well, the fact is that tennis is a global sport, and it was always a sport of the upper classes.  It’s a very exclusive and expensive sport, which was invented by the French and English—both well-off nations, in every respect, throughout history.  So, considering this, there certainly haven’t been many champions from small countries.  And there are probably certain prejudices that, in this situation, play a role.  How much?  I don’t exactly know.

But, I try to take advantage of that Serbian inat* (which exists and which we mention frequently)—more in the sense of enduring certain things, maybe even unfairness—and display a level of tolerance that perhaps I wouldn’t have at first.  I think that’s a virtue, the right way to behave at that moment.  Because if I reacted impulsively to everything—all the headlines, stories, insinuations, people, media, and so on—throughout my career, I wouldn’t have been able to withstand it mentally and emotionally.  So, I save my energy, which I need on court.”

You mentioned the media and popularity.  Maybe part of the problem is that after a longstanding rivalry between Federer and Nadal, a third guy arrived and ruined all of that—including for many people in media and marketing circles—by becoming a champion?

“I disrupted the world order [laughs]…. I’ve thought about it a lot, but then I got past it in a positive way.  I sat down with the people who surround me, who participate in my career—from my family to my coaching team to those responsible for publicity—to devise a strategy for how I’d like to be presented off court.  That is, I try to be myself both on and off court.  Because I don’t like duplicity or hypocrisy—I like to be honest and open in every possible situation.  Of course, there are events and certain formal occasions when one has to comply with protocols… so you don’t get into trouble.

But I try to show emotions, sometimes even ones that might seem unacceptable to some people.  That’s simply me.  I don’t run away from it.  It’s not that breaking a racquet or letting a curse fly are things to be proud of—far from it.  Kids, don’t do that!  But I’ve talked about it with both Marijan and Boris and they told me (particularly Boris, who has experienced similar things on court) that it’s sometimes better to release that negative emotion, the anger that’s growing within you, than to hold onto it because in the long run it’ll eat you up from the inside.”

You used an interesting word a minute ago: humanity.  I’m curious whether you three at the top of world tennis sometimes exchange private messages.  For instance, did any of them congratulate you on the birth of your son?

“Yes, both personally and by text—how could it be otherwise?  Just about all the players I saw did, and everyone at the top.  Absolutely.  I think the current generation of top tennis players is sending a positive message to all the kids who follow them and look up to everything they do.  Similarly, we’re sending a good message to the media and those who occasionally try to create some tension between us.

That was the case between me and Murray after the final in Australia, when British media, in particular, emphasized some disagreement which then grew into anger and then who knows what else that really had no basis.  We’ve known each other since we were 12 years old.  It’s normal when you’ve been fighting for a Grand Slam title that you’re disappointed and show some emotions after the match.  Everything was completely fine between us in the locker room—he came up to my team and congratulated us, and I did the same to them.

Tennis is a very particular sport, at least when we’re discussing this theme of humanity.  Self-respect, respect toward your opponent, and demonstration of fair play—these are among the reasons I’m proud to be part of a generation aware of that.”

* Note: I left the word “inat” in Serbian because it has no English equivalent.  If you’re interested in the origins and significance of what is widely considered a Serbian national characteristic, see here or here.

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Translated by Ana Mitrić with an assist from Saša Ozmo.  Feedback is welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

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Murray: “Becker hasn’t improved Djokovic”

Murray: “Becker hasn’t improved Djokovic”

Read a summary of the original German piece here.

Tennis pro Andy Murray is doubtful of Boris Becker’s influence on world #1 Djokovic’s game.  “To be honest, I don’t see a difference in Novak’s game compared to the time before Boris coached him.  He didn’t make him better,” the British World #4 told Sport Bild.

Which doesn’t mean “he isn’t a massive help to him,” the former US Open champ Murray added, saying that the results of Djokovic/Becker are “fantastic.”  The Serb won Wimbledon 2014 with Becker in his box and returned to the top of the world rankings.  Djokovic won the Australian Open for the fifth time in January— with Murray as his opponent in the finals.

Murray: “Mauresmo has made me stronger.”

In addition, Murray defended choosing Amelie Mauresmo as his coach.  “She’s made me better.  That’s why leveling criticism at Amelie was wrong and disrespectful,” the 27-year-old said about the Frenchwoman, a former World #1. The decision to go for a female coach wasn’t anything extraordinary for Murray: “I’m likelier to open up to women than to men.  Until my 18th birthday I often trained with my mother.”

Murray also isn’t sure that record Grand Slam champion Roger Federer (33/Switzerland) will finish his career after the Rio Olympics in 2016.  “Let’s wait and see.  He loves the game, he’s got the full support of his family.”

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Translation by Renestance.   Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

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