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

Advertisements

“I felt at the end of my tether.” Stan Wawrinka, interviewed by @LequipeTestelin in l’Équipe, on the physical and mental fatigue that led to his body breaking down

Translation of the interview with Stan Wawrinka in l’Équipe, print edition Wednesday 10 January 2018, pages 18-19 and online https://abonnes.lequipe.fr/Tennis/Article/Stan-wawrinka-je-me-suis-senti-a-bout/865299 by Régis Testelin.

MONTE CARLO – After five months of suffering, doubt and sweat, who knows if he’ll be able to put on a good performance at the Australian Open? The Swiss hasn’t played since his first round loss against Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon. In August, he underwent two knee operations, one arthroscopic, another to fix a cartilage hole. Five months later, he’s in Melbourne, where he’s supposed to take part in a “Tie Break Tens” exhibition with Nadal and Djokovic [he withdrew with a shoulder problem – Mark] which might give some indication of his level and perhaps reassure himself. We spent a morning with him in the middle of December at the Monte Carlo Country Club to talk about the injury, overwork and the depression what occasionally hits even the most solid players on the tour.

After three exceptional seasons, your knee gave out. Do you think you pushed too hard?

When you’re always trying to reach as high as you can, you push the machine to the limits. Still, I was careful: I never played four or five tournaments in a row, I always gave myself recuperation periods. But I’ve always known that this sport, at this level, wasn’t good for the body. You know there’ll be problems later on.

Pushing to the limit until breaking, that’s extracting the best from oneself while getting consumed. How is that experienced?

In all sports, when you reach this level, you consume yourself. It’s not by chance that I’m injured at thirty-two, that Novak is at thirty, if Roger and Rafa were. These injuries are results of wear and tear and of numbers. But when you have the chance of getting to the top, it’s a nice wear and tear. Besides, winning is addictive – you always want more. To get more, you need to do more, to do more you push yourself even more, and at some point, it gives out. When you’re on top, everything’s tougher. What I did the last few years was an opportunity, but it was demanding. I get the impression I’m on my way to the cemetery, but I telling all this with a smile [he laughs]. I’m trying to make people understand what we go through.

Do you have the impression of having pushed your body to the burnout point?

These last couple of years, I’ve pushed too far, too long, and the motor often overheated. But it’s not just physical, it’s mental too. People watch us play tennis, but we have a life outside of that which means … I felt at the end of my rope these last years; I had mental gaps. Burnout is too strong a word, because people who burnout live at the extremes. But it happens that I experience feeling at a breaking point, of telling myself “I can’t keep this up”.

It’s the interaction between what’s happening around you and the on-court demands?

It’s of a piece. If you have a full life that wears on you, you’ll get tired on the job. That applies to all trades, but even more in ours. You don’t win Grand Slams without pushing to your personal limits.

Does that mean that you’d like to change some things to better manage?

It’s difficult to change things when I see what doing those things led to: three Grand Slams and a final. That means I did those things well. If I’d rested more, I’d never have gone as far. This injury will make cleaning out all but my closest entourage easier. I won’t be spending energy on people who aren’t closest any longer and I’ll be fresher.

How did you experience this period of inactivity?

Everything weighed on me: walking with crutches, being off the Tour, doubt, not being able to do anything. When you stop for a longer period, it’s very bad for your body. It will take some time, for example, to recover full flexion on my serve. But it’s not just that – rehabilitating my shoulder will also take time. The whole body needs to be reconditioned to being under pressure and tension.

What was the hardest to recover in the last few weeks?

Knee flexion. I can’t get down very low. Reflexive movements are difficult. But, I’m playing well, my shots are good, my tennis is there.

How much were you in doubt?

Inside, I was always sure that I’d find the solution to get to a certain level. Which level, I don’t yet know. But this re-education was tougher than I thought. I wasn’t expecting it. All those phases where you had to reach the limit without going over to protect the knee.

You’ve said that without the help of Pierre Paganini, your fitness coach, you would have quit.

To come back from so far, I need someone who knows my limits. He was a lifesaver because I had moments of depression where I felt alone. What I missed the most was competing, the adrenaline, the excitement, all those things you can only experience first-hand. Stress, even when you feel bad, is basically a good thing. I was in a down period.

Would you say the toughest part to get to a Slam semi-final is behind you or ahead of you?

I’d say behind. Coming to play for two weeks in Monte Carlo in December with the guys, being able to hit with Dimitrov and realising that, despite everything, the level is there, that helped me. From the first training session, I felt that the tennis wasn’t going to be a problem. But when you lose confidence, persuading yourself that you’ll come back is tough.

Knowing that a player like Rafael Nadal came back from long injury periods, does that help?

No. I mean, it’s possible, but everyone’s different. Obviously, it’s tougher coming back from a knee operation than a wrist injury, for example, because with a wrist injury, you can keep working on everything else physical. But, tennis-wise, it’s tougher coming back from a wrist injury, so … Everyone manages their own injury; you can’t compare.

Magnus Norman, who’s been your coach since 2013, suddenly left you in October.

I didn’t see that coming. It was a shock and a disappointment. I’ll always acknowledge what we experienced together, but the timing was difficult. When you start again from zero, you need people around you who know you so you can recover your lost confidence. He has his reasons [spend more time with his family] and I accept them. We’ll delve more into the reasons for the break at a good meal. It will be easier then. Thanks to him, I won three Slams, and they’ll never be erased.

You say you want to play another three or four years. Will one of your goals be detaching more from results and taking advantage of that?

– Yes, but that will be impossible. The more the years pass, the more difficult it is to look back and tell yourself, “OK, I lost but it doesn’t matter.” There’s less time left, and you can’t miss your chances.

Translated by MAN

*Edited to fix an incorrect date.

Eduardo Schwank talks injury, comeback, goals

Original source:  http://www.ole.com.ar/tenis/Arranco-cero_0_1348665421.html

“I’m starting from scratch”

Eduardo Schwank will make his comeback at the Villa María Futures Tournament after nine months of inactivity, product of the fractures he suffered on his left arm in a bicycle accident in Gstaad. “I felt like giving up, but I miss the adrenaline of tennis, and I have a lot of energy”, he said to Olé.

His last match was on July 24th 2014, a defeat in doubles with Marcel Granollers in Gstaad, the same place where a few hours later he fell from his bike while training in the mountains, turning his tennis career  into a huge question mark. The fractures on his left arm kept Eduardo Schwank away from a racket for too long… nine months.

“At the beginning I didn’t wanna deal with it. I was pretty depressed, and I was constantly remembering the accident. But everything happens for a reason. Inactivity made me realise the important things. Right now I have a lot of energy, and I really appreciate this return to the courts,” says the 29-year-old while preparing to play the Villa María Future in Córdoba, starting on Monday.

-How are you preparing your comeback?

-I’m feeling better every day, I started to train eight weeks ago, and in the last two weeks I started hitting backhands. I’m lacking competition, but I’ll start with some Futures to get some rhythm. I wont be looking for results, I just want to be fine and feel no pain.

-What is it that you missed the most during this nine months?

-I missed the adrenaline of tennis. I’ve been doing some other activities, but I couldn’t find anything like it. The tension before a match… those things that when you’re on the tour you take naturally, and you don’t really appreciate.

-Do you see the tour differently from the outside?

-Yes. You get used to packing your bags, getting on a plane, living in hotels. You don’t have time for anything else. The first two months without playing went by really slow for me. I miss that too… having your head wrapped around the competition.

What are your targets now? You are starting without ranking in singles…

-If everything goes well in Futures in this country, I’m thinking about traveling to the Challengers in Europe, playing quallies and trying to gain points. That’s the only way to start. When I start getting rhythm I’m dangerous. Results will come as I feel better.

-You turned pro in 2005. Is it hard to set up your mind to start again?

-Yes, it’s like starting a new career. I’m starting from scratch. But I have the support of a team, and I’m also doing this for self-pride, because I want to go back to play ATP tournaments. I know it will take time. But I’m going to do this with more professionalism than I did before.

-How do you stand the daily struggle with the body? Del Potro is living the same thing.

-It’s hard when there’s a retrogression. I was well in December, but then in January I had to have surgery on my elbow, that delayed the comeback and got into my head. Everything fell apart for me when the doctor told me it was going to take four more months. It’s frustrating to not be 100% phisically. It must be really ugly to have to retire from your career because of an injury.

-Did you ever think of quitting tennis?
-Many times. I thought of leaving everything and moving forward with my Academy (Schwank Tennis Center) and having more time for my Fundation (Estar Eduardo Schwank) that keeps opening schools for disabled kids. But I still think that tennis can give me things. I thinl I have a lot of years ahead in my career. [Nowadays] players stay longer on the tour.

-What goals do you still have?
-Tennis gave me more than I ever expected. I’ve done great things in doubles (N: He was a finalist at Roland Garros 2011 with Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal), but I neglected singles, and that’s something I want to fix. I want to have a good ranking again (48th in the world in June 2010). My head was not 100% at the time.

-Does Davis Cup motivate you? You played some great battles with Nalbandian, and you went to watch the tie against Brazil.

-Yes, that’s one of the main reasons I want to return. I’ve never felt anything quite like representing my country, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s not the same as playing on the tour, mainly when the crowd is in your favour. It’s one of my targets. I hope I can play it, even if it is just once more.

~

Translation by @WTAenespanol

Florian Mayer exclusive interview: “I’ve got the desire back for tennis!”

From http://www.tennismagazin.de/interview/florian-mayer-exklusiv-ich-habe-wieder-richtig-lust/2/

Translation of article in German from Tennis Magazin by Florian Vonholdt 19 March 2015

Florian Mayer exclusive: “I’ve got the desire back for tennis!”

After more than a year away from the game through injury, Florian Mayer (returned) to the tour in early April at Monte Carlo. As preparation for this, he (played) in a Futures tournament from Monday in Rovinj, Croatia. The 31-year-old spoke to tennismagazin.de about his time on the side-lines, any thoughts about ending his career and his objectives for the 2015 season.

Florian, you’re (made) your comeback on 13 April at the ATP tournament in Monte Carlo on clay. Why there in particular?

Mayer: After my long lay-off, I’d like to get started in particular during the clay court season, and Monte Carlo is the first major tournament on clay.

Why did you delay your return so long? You were out of the tour for a year.

Unfortunately, the injury was even more prolonged than originally thought, which means that the rehab and work to build up my strength could only happen slowly and gradually.

You were diagnosed last March with pelvic swelling. How do you get an injury like that? Is it from overexertion?

I’ve been on the tour for 12 years now. And although I’ve been largely injury free for that time, your body is still subject to strain. The injury that I had is not uncommon in sport. It occurs fairly frequently in football, for instance.

What treatment did you receive for it? Was it conservative or did you also have to undergo surgery?

Only conservative treatment was given. The most important thing was that I needed to be patient.

Was it painful during everyday activities or only when you exerted any strain on it?

To begin with, I felt pain everywhere, no matter whether I was moving about or lying in bed. Then it gradually got better over time, to the extent that I could, for instance, start slowly doing things, such as cycling.

How did you spend your time during your enforced break? Could you do any kind of training or was it complete rest that the doctor ordered?

At the start, it was very important for me to rest. Then I began some gentle cycling. Later on I could do power training for my upper body, and I also began to do some slow jogging. What was important was not to overdo things, but to build up my strength rather slowly.

Was it clear from the outset that your injury break would last so long or were there setbacks during the healing process?

No one could have expected that it would last so long. But the doctors had told me already early on that I should come to terms with the fact that it might take a whole six months for the injury to heal completely.

During that difficult period, did you also have any thoughts about possibly ending your career?

No. Obviously, it wasn’t always easy to have the patience that was needed. But I was basically optimistic as the doctors’ prognosis from the start had been positive, which was that I’d make a full recovery from the injury.

In the meantime, was there any contact between you and your “fellow patient” Tommy Haas?

No, we weren’t in touch.

Was the operation you had on your groin in January a consequence of the pubic bone injury or was there no connection at all with it?

No. The one injury had nothing to do at all with the other.

When was the first time you got back on the training court with a racquet in your hand?

End of January. Before that, I was constantly training to build up my strength.

What objectives have you set yourself for 2015?

Basically, I’d first like to get through the season healthy and fit. I’d like to simply enjoy playing. At the moment, I don’t have any specific objectives, such as reaching a particular ranking.

What protected ranking have you been given? And in which tournaments will you be using it?

My protected ranking is 34. I will definitely be using it in the Grand Slams and Masters Series tournaments like Monte Carlo or Shanghai in the autumn. I also hope to get the odd wild card for tournaments in Germany.

There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the Davis Cup team during your absence. What’s your view of the events between Carsten Arriens and Philipp Kohlschreiber? (translator: Arriens dropped Kohlschreiber from German team last year for refusing to play a dead rubber)

I followed everything that went on just from the outside and don’t know the background to what happened. So, I can’t make any comment about it.

You know them both well. Did you speak to either of the men involved about the situation?

No.

What do you think about the new management set-up, with Michael Kohlmann as team captain and Niki Pilic as an adviser?

I know Michael Kohlmann very well. He offers a good solution and is very popular with the players. And what can we say about Niki Pilic? He has an incredible amount of experience, especially when it comes to Davis Cup.

How do you feel about getting back into the Davis Cup team?

At the moment, I’m not giving it any thought yet, quite frankly. I need to be fully fit again and wait to see how things go for me. If I stay healthy and my performance is at the right level, I’ll be available again for the team in the future.

In 2008 you also had to have a break for different reasons and for a longer period of time, and you came back even stronger, getting into the top 20 for the first time. How confident are you that you’ll manage to make a similar comeback yet again?

Top 20 is still a long way off. My first target is to get into the top 100 again by the end of the year. Then, we’ll see what happens from there. But, I’m optimistic and I’ve really got the desire back for tennis.

Translated by Gerry.

Juan Martín Del Potro talks injury and Davis Cup in radio interview

From a 12 February interview with Juan Martín Del Potro on the Argentine radio show El Grupo de la Muerte from Vorterix Radio. You can listen to the original here.

Question: Hello, Juan. It’s been a long time—how are you?  How’s everything?

Juan Martín Del Potro: Very well.  Resting before the afternoon practice, and the hand treatments later; I’ll finish with everything tonight.

Q: Well, for many of us, myself included, to hear you saying “the afternoon practice” is already big news—the fact that you are working physically already.

JMDP: Yes, a couple of days ago I started hitting forehands, serving, volleying. Obviously, backhand will be the last thing I’ll start to practice because I’m still doing mobility exercises for my wrist.  If everything goes well, next Monday I’ll start going to the gym and trying to strengthen it; and possibly by the end of next week, I’ll start hitting with my left hand to continue to advance my rehabilitation.

Q: What did Dr. Berger explain to you about this surgery compared with the last one you had?

JMDP: It’s a lot easier and a lot simpler than the other injury.  In my backhand movement, before the impact with the ball, I had some injured tissue, the product of bones that were colliding and rubbing that tissue and damaging it.  It was very hard to fix it with other treatments, and when he saw me he recommended the surgery, one that was not as serious as the one I had before—and I didn’t want to waste any more time.  The time for this rehab is much less than the time for my previous rehab, and I’m looking forward—I’m very anxious to play again, whether it’s in the upcoming tournaments in the US, Indian Wells and Miami, or it’s in the clay tournaments in Europe.  It’ll be great if [my comeback] could be in that span of time.

Q: There’s a big difference between this surgery and the other injuries and procedures you had—you’re looking at much closer targets, you’re talking about Indian Wells and Miami, that would be March; and the other tournaments you were mentioning would be in April.  If we understand correctly, your comeback could be really soon.

JMDP: Yes, well, obviously with the hand like this it’s difficult to set exact dates because I’m going day by day; but compared with the other process, I’m going much faster.  After a week without the cast, I have almost 100% mobility, I’m starting to do strengthening exercises.  Last time it took me months to start doing all that, so… I don’t know today exactly what tournament I’ll be coming back.  I think that when the hand allows me to—when I don’t feel any discomfort or fear or any serious pain—I’ll go out and train during competition, during tournaments, because that helps me so much more than just staying in one place with my coach.  I feel like I advanced so much during my run in Australia, during those matches I got to play in Sydney.  That helped me much more than if I’d kept training in Buenos Aires.  That’s what I need: competition-level rhythm against big players.  Those things that I can only get when I’m on the tour.

Q: In the little time you got in the tour this year, what was it like to come back? Who greeted you?  How did your occasional rivals react when they saw you again on the tour?

JMDP: The truth is, everyone was really cool.  Sydney was my first encounter with my colleagues.  Leo Mayer was there, Charly Berlocq too; we were training together in Buenos Aires and we get along well.  Fognini, the Spanish players, players from other countries.  People from the ATP, the Australian fans—I had won that tournament the year before, so they were happy to see me.  Then, when I arrived in Melbourne, I met Rafa, Roger, Djokovic, their coaches… Going back to the world of tennis that I missed so much for so long was really nice; it lasted so little, yet I enjoyed it so much and it was very useful for me because it gave me energy to face the complicated period that I’m going through now.  Those days left me with a very positive feeling.  All the people that set their alarms to wake up early to see me, all the nice stuff that people were doing, I felt it, and they gave me strength to continue and to not give up.

Q: Did you feel in the match against Fognini that maybe you could let loose your arm and unleash your backhand?

JMDP: It was hard.  It was hard because when you are playing every day, recovery time is very short, so treatments don’t really help with that.  The hand wasn’t responding like I wanted, and I think even Kukushkin realised that in the next match, because he started to hit everything to the backhand, and the effort that I had to do to avoid it was really big.  Because of that, I said to myself, “I don’t wanna lose any more time, I’m off to see Berger and try to solve this once and for all, and go out and play in even conditions.”  After that, it’ll probably be a long process of wins and losses, but the main thing for me is to be healthy and be in equal conditions [with my opponents].  That would be a great relief, especially mentally.

Q: There’s a little time now until the Davis Cup tie against Brazil.  Can you put in your own words your position on the Davis Cup and Argentine tennis?

JMDP: That was the thing that I was trying to say through the open letters that I wrote back in the day, when I started to speak out and try to communicate with some leaders.  Some time after that, there were some changes: Diego Gutierrez showed up, “Palito” Fidalgo, Cervone… We started to have a good dialogue, a respectful one, and together we started talking about what would be the road Argentine tennis should take to grow, beyond me playing or not in Davis Cup. Back then, I talked about Argentine tennis not having a top performance centre, about a lot of junior players not being able to afford to travel overseas, or about how hard it is to start playing tennis because of how costly it is, and lots of things that structurally didn’t work.  With being injured, I had a lot of time to think about all that stuff, about the path we should follow, and obviously about the day that I could return to Davis Cup, because I really love to play it.  All of this was done with the purpose of seeking that goal.  Luckily, the new leaders [of the Argentine Tennis Association] are heading in the same direction—we all want the same things.

It was not easy—everyone knows it.  I suffered a lot during this time, even more without playing.  When you’re playing and winning, you can handle it better; but this way, I lived it more in the flesh, and I learned a lot.  My best source of strength was my belief in my convictions, my trust in myself that I was doing the right thing.  I tried not to listen and act in silence, like I did before.  I tried not to listen to the lies—and with these new leaders, I felt like I was being listened to and I felt less alone, that I was not the only one thinking that things needed to change in general in Argentine tennis.  Today, things are going the right way and we have a positive message to give.  Particularly for me, the good news I have to give is that I will be playing Davis Cup again, as soon as possible.  It’s a beautiful thing that I wanted to share with a lot of people who were waiting for this—a lot of people who were waiting with me, suffering with me, listening to many painful things.  But that’s looking back, and the best thing we can do is to look forward now that Argentina has a lot of power, a lot of potential.  There are a lot of players raising their level and that’s really important.  We shouldn’t think so much about the Davis Cup—we should think about more global things, like the great federations of the world do.  We should start to change things so we can compete with those worldwide powers.

Q: Juan, in conversations I had with people who know about this subject, they were saying that obviously everyone knows the importance of Juan Martin playing Davis Cup, but there are a lot of other things about your presence that are influential: being close to the team, close to the young players, and so on.  What I want to know is if there’s any chance of us seeing you around in the tie against Brazil or not.

JMDP: Yes, well, [being around] helps a lot.  One of the things that I was saying before is that whenever I felt like there are other people who are willing to change Argentine tennis with me, I was going to be there in any form, if they needed me.  As of today, with my hand the way it is, I spend most of the day rehabilitating and working to come back to the courts; but I also know that I can help by being around in Tecnópolis [Argentina’s training center]—hitting forehands, serving to my teammates, spending time in the locker room, sharing experiences, talking.  The captain knows it; I gave him this message.  My teammates also know this, and they are aware of the situation today.  No doubt, I will be there against Brazil cheering and supporting the team—and I’ll be there for anything they need.  That’s all I can do these days, and hopefully if we win this round, I will be able to play in the next tie and be on court and not on the side—because that’s my thing, and I want to enjoy it, like I did when I played Davis Cup before, like I did at the Olympic Games, and like I always do on the tour.

Q: One of the things we heard your colleagues say about you this last time when you had to pull out of the tour again—I think it was Dimitrov and Nadal who said this—is that maybe you should try to change the way you hit your backhand. How long can it take for a player to change his style of play when he’s built a whole career playing a certain way?  Is it possible to change the way you do something, when you’ve done it your entire life in a determined way?

JMDP: Yes, I listened to those things.  Dimitrov even told me this in person, that I should start to hit a one-handed backhand.  I think if I start practising one-handed backhands today, I wouldn’t even be able to hit it like Franco [Davin] hits it today (laughs).  But, it’s too hard.  It would be way too complicated.  I’m not even considering it.  I want to recover my hand and be able to hit [my backhand] hard like I’ve done throughout my career.  I think they meant something like, “If this is a career-threatening thing, then you should try to hit it with one hand.”  If that was the case, I’ll take it as advice; but right now, I’m willing to make the effort to recover my backhand.  I want to have not only a powerful forehand but also a powerful backhand, like I always did.

Q: Since 2010, when the problems on your wrists started, were there moments of discouragement?  How did you feel when these issues started to pull you away for so long?

JMDP: Injuries are the worst thing that can happen in the life of an athlete.  In the last years, I’ve felt like my life had lots of ups and downs—at some point, I could go back to my best ranking, and then again things changed because of an injury and all the bad things came back.  And that’s how these last years have been for me.  It hasn’t been easy.  It’s not easy to live with an injury that pulls you away from the courts for so long.  It’s the hardest match I’ve ever played.  It tires you physically, it wears you out mentally, it fills you with fear, doubts, and uncertainty.  You wake up every day thinking, “Will this be the end of my career?”

But today I feel very strong—I won’t give up because of this.  I know this is a big rock in my road, but I’m really trying.  I have great desire to play again, and this Davis Cup news fills me with energy, with good vibes; those are the things I need to play tennis again.  After that, I will try to put together an intelligent schedule to take care of my hand, and to enjoy playing, because all this time I was out I had a really bad time—I cried a lot.  It’s truly ugly to watch on TV, to see that the big tournaments are opening up, and the big names winning Grand Slams are starting to change, and me feeling like I could be there and not being able to compete… It’s really hard.  But, well, I had to go through this and I have to be strong now.  After this, just by playing again, I will be happy and I’m going to enjoy it a lot.

Q: When Marin Čilić, who is your friend, won the US Open, it was like he was saying, “Juan, come back—we’re waiting for you.”

JMDP: Yeah, I was in touch with him, and I was very happy for him.  We’ve known each other since we were 12, and there he was living the same thing that I lived a few years ago.  Winning such a tournament is not easy and he really deserved it.  Nishikori, who reached the final, is also one of the kids that I grew up with.  I think it’s really good for tennis to see those new names winning Grand Slams, so people won’t get bored seeing the same guys winning all the time (laughs).  I did think, “That could be me, competing in the best tournaments against the best players, and instead I have to deal with this wrist.”  But, like I said, this is one more thing in my career and I’m making a great effort to get over it; hopefully, the things to come will be great.

(…)

Q: Did you feel during this time that your career might be over—that maybe you wouldn’t be able to play anymore?

JMDP: I felt that way five years ago with the injury to my right wrist.  Now, I am not at that point.  Obviously, in this situation, you tend to think the worst things almost every day.  You feel bitter—the worst feelings you can have come to you when you have a serious injury.  But, somehow, I’ve always found a way to find inside myself the extra motivation that covered up all those bad thoughts and made me get out of bed and go to the gym, or go hit forehands, or go to rehab.  In Sydney, I felt in those two matches the same feeling that I might have playing a Grand Slam final, when in reality I was playing an ATP 250 tournament; so, you can imagine how important that was for me emotionally.  That was enough for me to realise that tennis is what I love the most, and that I want to recover so I can enjoy it again, and the people can enjoy it too.  The fans, they’ve let me know that, because they were getting up at 2 in the morning just to see me, even if they knew I wouldn’t win the tournament.  To me, that is priceless and I’m so proud and super grateful to all those people.  They’re another reason for me not to give up.

Q: What is your ambition now?  What is your goal on the tour in the short term?

JMDP: After everything that has happened to me, all I ask is to be healthy and to be able to play any tournament I want to play, injury-free and with no pain. Knowing me, I’m going to want to win a match, then a tournament, and then climb the rankings.  I have faith that with my hand in good condition, I can fight with the best in the world.  I don’t know if I will be in top-5 level, or in top-10 level, but beating a top-20 player in Sydney made me believe that I can do that again— and that’s great motivation.  That’s what is keeping me confident and with great desire to come back to the tour in the best way possible.

~

Translated by WTA en Español.  Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

If you would like to contribute a translation, please head to About Us to see how to do so.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is starting slowly by hitting children’s tennis balls

Quotes from an article by Sophie Dorgan in the print edition of l’Équipe (18 February 2015, page 12).

Tsonga:

“Hitting is a very big word <smiles>.  It’s just having a racquet in my hands.  But it’s always a good feeling.  The stroke, the movement—that’s also why I love my sport.”

Coach Thierry Ascione:

“We’re going to be very methodical for the first fifteen days: thirty minutes, thirty-five minutes, forty minutes.  He mustn’t have any pain when he starts up. We’re watching for that.  Better to play fifteen minutes less and be sure that everything goes well.”

Tsonga:

“With this medical team, we’ve given ourselves large margins.  I’m more or less aiming at the American swing for my return.  If the gods smile at me and everything goes swimmingly, I’ll play Indian Wells (12-22 March), but that’s still far away.  You’re never safe from a nice surprise, but I hope to be back for Miami (25 March-5 April).”

Ascione:

“All he’s missing is the racquet.”

String change:

To save his wrist, the Frenchman has decided to change his stringing from monofilament polyester to mixed monofilament-gut.

Tsonga:

“The feel is a bit different, but I’ve always bounced back and forth between the two stringings.  I’ve played well with both.  I really liked the feel of monofilament, but it’s a lot more demanding physically and I can’t afford to lose any time with injuries.  The goal is to get back on the court.  I can’t wait to get back into that little bubble.”

~

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

If you would like to contribute a translation, please head to About Us to see how to do so.