“Andre will give 100%” Novak Đoković interviewed by @franckramella of l’Équipe on Agassi hiring and life

Interview with Novak Đoković by @franckramella in l’Équipe https://abonnes.lequipe.fr/Tennis/Article/Novak-djokovic-andre-agassi-va-se-donner-a-100/805350 (paywall). This version is taken from the print edition, May 29, 2017, pp. 2-4, Rolan Garros supplement.
Thanks to you, we’ll have Dédé back on a court …

Dédé – who’s that?

 
In France, it’s the nickname for André …

[Laughs} Déde, Dédé. It’s funny, it’s like the Serbian deda, which means grandfather. Nothing to do with Andre, who definitely has the spirit of a young guy!

 
For an old fan of Sampras, your idol, isn’t choosing the Agassi option difficult?

[Laughs] My biggest idol was Pete, but I watched Agassi a lot too. In terms of style, he had a game much more similar to mine than Sampras. I talked with Pete a lot too. I don’t see a problem! My life circumstances guided me towards Andre, and the way it’s working up to now reinforces my opinion.  I’m thankful. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn.

 
If I were a young player who didn’t know your new coach, how would you introduce Andre Agassi?

I’d tell him he’s a person with a strong character, very honest and sincere, filled with compassion. He’s passionate about what he does, and when he takes something on, he does it 100%. So you can always have confidence in him.

 
Do you remember the first time you met him?

Not exactly. Wait, yes … It was just before we played against each other at an exhibition before Wimbledon, at Boodles, during his final year before he retired [in 2006].  I was lucky enough to be chosen to face him for the occasion. We chatted a bit before the match. We even had a good laugh. I’d done my warm-ups and my stretching. You know, where I lift my leg up on the shoulder of my kinesiologist, and he looked at me laughing because he could hardly bend over and touch his knees. We both broke out laughing. We recalled that Thursday during our first practice here. He told me that, at the time, when he was returning in the car with Darren Cahill, his coach then, he told him: ‘The new generation’s coming. I think my career will end soon when I see guys stretching like that!’

 
You kept in contact?

Andre’s always been good with me since the first time I met him.  We saw each other most of the time at Grand Slams. I even had the privilege of getting the Australian Open trophy from him in 2013. We obviously always chatted when we saw each other. But we didn’t go further than that. We respected each other for sure, but we really didn’t know each other. Until one time about a month ago. I asked him for his telephone number because I wanted to thank him. I wanted to do that because he always spoke nicely about me in the media. Whether I was number 1 and playing well, or there was some turbulence result-wise like in these last months, he was always positive when talking about me. I appreciated that, and I wanted to thank him personally. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about proposing any sort of professional relationship. It was just a person-to-person conversation when you want to thank someone. And, instead of a pleasant five minute exchange of words, it turned into a long thirty minute conversation .. We opened up to one another about tennis, about life. I connected with him very quickly. I saw that we had many similarities in our way of thinking. He’s gone through a lot of trials. Few have had to face those sorts of things. I liked the open and honest way he talked about his life in his book.

 
But can both your trajectories be compared? You haven’t, apparently, fallen as low as he …

We’ve both had difficulties on our paths, which are unique. We’ve both faced adversity. Different adversities, but adversities to overcome the challenges and become what we hoped. I’ll tell you where I see the resemblance. For the vast majority of his career, he played thinking that winning on court was the only thing that satisfied him and made him happy. But it wasn’t. He described that well when he told himself he didn’t like tennis, that he often got the feeling he was being forced to play, that he felt empty when playing for something other than his own aspirations. Maybe I don’t have exactly that sort of feeling but [he emphasises the but] I can use it as a reference. I, too, during these years, based my joy on winning a tennis match. All my life, my environment, the people around me, sacrificed their energy on me so I could maximise my potential and become the best player in the world. And it happened, and I’m proud of it. But I also realised that I was basing myself too much on tennis and the successes in it as a source of joy and inner peace. But, in the end, it isn’t true, at least to my way of thinking. It’s not the right state of mind.

 
Why?

Because you can’t always win. And when you lose, it shouldn’t be the end of the world. You shouldn’t be so disappointed. Of course, some will say that being affected by a loss means that you’re concerned. Of course you don’t make light of it! If you don’t care about winning or losing, why then become a professional athlete? Of course it always preoccupies me. I always want to be number one in the world, win titles and Slams. I’ve always wanted that. But I want to balance that, in the sense of emotional stability. I don’t need to base my entire life on the fact that I won or lost a tennis match.

 
That doesn’t seem like you. In a certain way, you’ve been built on rage. Changing your mentality, that shouldn’t be easy …

It isn’t easy. I’ve grown up with this mentality and way of thinking all my life. I was a warrior on court. I invested so much in it that nothing else existed. By that I’m not saying that I’m not invested any more! I am! Really. When I play tennis, I play tennis. But what I’m trying to do now is that, when I go back home, I’m not a tennis player any more. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a friend. I’m a son. And if I’m doing business, I’m doing business. I don’t think about … you see what I’m trying to say. I want to have this approach of being able to do my best in whatever I do.

 
Some might say that before thinking about happiness, a champion of your calibre should think more about taking advantage of the last years on court to optimise the chances of winning rather than trying to be accomplished everywhere …

I want to answer by sharing an intelligent thought I read reading Osho [*]. He was asked if he believed in positive thinking. He answered that he didn’t, because he didn’t believe in negative thoughts. He believes only in the consciousness and emotion of being in the moment. I’ve worked a lot on being better able to control my emotions. I’ve always been very expressive on court, both in a positive and negative way. I’ve worked on reducing this ‘expressiveness’, because I don’t feel good about it and it’s not a good message. Obviously you can’t control everything−sometimes you have to let yourself go because it would be meaningless to tell yourself: ‘OK, I’m going to be positive” when you’re burning up inside. But …

 
How can Agassi help you with those reflections?

I have the feeling that with Andre we have in common this consciousness of wanting to achieve an optimal balance, to be able to be serene and satisfied because you’re who you want to become. With Andre, it didn’t take long to get on the same wavelength. Thursday was our first day together and it felt like we’d known each other for years. We talked a lot, on the court and outside. About everything! What’s impressive about him is that he really tries to share his experience, his feeling, his honest opinions about me. On the other hand, he’s very respectful and sensitive in terms of timing. He knows when he needs to say something.

 
Has he already said something to you that’s had an effect?

These last weeks, we spoke on the phone before and after each match at Madrid and Rome. It was a way of feeling out how both of us saw the game.  It served to have Andre better understand me: how I prepared, how I managed my recuperation. We talked a lot about the game itself, but that was more in general terms, and to see where my state of mind was. How do I unblock my full potential as a tennis player in all senses of the term? How, every time I go on court, to have this state of mind that frees me from all doubt or emotions that can block?

 

Despite all your experience and your accumulated certainties, you still need to be unblocked …

Everyone needs it every day. People think that once they’ve reached certain summits, there’s no need for mental work, that they’re mature players, that that’s the end of the problems. But that’s completely false! Sure, there’s relief when you accomplish good things. But with me, in my way of being and the way I grew up, I felt this responsibility of continuing again and again. To do more. I had this feeling of needing to work even more to create my history. I was very curious, and I still am, to find out where I could go.

 
Knowing your almost total investment in all aspects of the game, there was a moment where you must have told yourself that it was impossible to do more, no?

Exactly. Last year I started to feel that something had to change. My body was changing, too. I didn’t think those days would arrive where you feel a bit different [smiles]. Even if I feel fit, young, and I take care of my body, it’s true that I’m thirty. In terms of approaching training, of ‘energy management’, of programming, I need to have a different approach. I want to play for a long time. You have to prioritise. And I felt i needed to explore new things.
[*] Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain is termed an Indian iconoclastic guru, according to Wikipedia. He’s the creator of what he’s called ‘dynamic meditation’. He’s also one of the major influences of the New Age current.

 

Translated by MAN

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“A rather unique style.” Michael Chang on Kei Nishikori, interviewed by @FranckRamella of l’Équipe

Translation of the print version of this article (paywall) by @franckramella in the print version of l’Équipe, 18 November 2016, page 29.

 

With his game, I bring the small things. I started with the serve

How would you define your role with Kei?

It’s of course a combination of everything. On the physical side, I don’t involve myself in his training sessions,  but he trains with my old trainer. And we’re starting to see the effects. The improvements are pretty obvious this year, I think. With his game, I bring the small things. I started with the serve. When we started in 2013, Kai was making more double faults than aces. about 150 doubles and 140 aces. It was obviously something he needed to work on. In 2014, he got down to 140 doubles, but something like 290 aces. The idea is to make a more complete player. I think he’s become a good volleyer too.

 

he’s a real fashion victim. I’d say he has a rather unique style. Check out his shoes …

Nishikori gives the impression of being a very shy player who goes almost unnoticed.

That’s because you don’t see everything. We often see him in his tennis kit. But when he dresses in his city clothes, he’s a real fashion victim. I’d say he has a rather unique style. Check out his shoes …

 

He’s not someone who wants to go out clubbing. That’s not his nature. He wants to do things that are good for his tennis.


Dante Bottini [his second coach who’s been with him since the beginning] told us once that he’s quite guarded and he was occasionally difficult to decode.

That’s possibly one of my advantages with him.  My Asian culture [he’s American but born of Chinese parents] means that I can sense certain things. An Asian will often be reserved. You need to feel the tone, understand when he’s ready to give more of himself. Kei isn’t one who often speaks up compared to other players. But it’s OK, he gives his opinions. We’ve been together for almost three years. We understand each other better. We don’t see each other especially often at tournaments, but when he comes to train in California, he sometimes spends a few days at the house. He’s reserved but I see him being talkative with his Japanese friends. He’s not someone who wants to go out clubbing. That’s not his nature. He wants to do things that are good for his tennis. He works a lot.


So he’s a coach’s dream, then?

I’d still like him to be more demonstrative on court, to be more excited when he hits a big shot. But OK, everyone has their own personality. It would be wrong to try and change it.


One doesn’t get the impression that he might one day serve underhanded to confuse an opponent …

Maybe because he has more power than me [laughs]. It’s true that you also need to be aware of what’s happening on the court, to try different things. We’re working on that with Kei.


Do you feel the pressure from Japan with the huge excitement there about Nishikori?

Honestly, no. God has made each one of us unique. Wondering about what others think of us is a useless distraction.


You’re very religious. Do you share that faith with Nishikori?

No, he’s not a Christian. He doesn’t understand much about that. I tell him about the concepts of sharing and the prayers we have for him.


And how does he resist the pressure from his country?

Pretty well. He learned a lot after his US Open final in 2014. He was already known, but he got even bigger. He has lucky in not spending a lot of time in Japan by living in the United States. If not, it would be a totally different story. I just tell him that knowing how to manage the pressure is one of the marks of the greats.

 

 
Translated by Mark Alan Nixon

Interview with Stefanos Tsitsipas

Original article: http://tennisportalen.se/stefanos-tsitsipas-i-intervju-med-tennisportalen/

Stefanos Tsitsipas is currently ranked as the world’s 17th best junior and perhaps the greatest talent Greece as a tennis nation has produced.  Tennisportal Editor Alex Theodoridis got hold of Stefanos through Twitter.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has played tennis since he was 6 years old, and he usually trains in Glyfada Tennis Club in Athens when he is not traveling and competing around the world. Although he is now trying to break into the senior level, Stefanos has a genuine interest in tennis.  In his spare time he voluntarily runs the Facebook groups TenniscoreITN and TenniscoreITT with 17000 and 2500 followers respectively.

You are the greatest talent Greece has produced in years, maybe in history – do you feel any pressure?

– Tennis is my passion. I am proud to represent Greece. My goal is to always do my best on the court, always be better. Pressure is just a word.

Where do you train in Greece in the summer? Are there any indoor courts nearby or do you simply practice in the evenings?

– I play a lot of tournaments in the summer in different countries so the warm climate of Greece does not interfere with my tennis.

Who do you train with at home?

– I work mostly with Theodoros Angelinos (866) and Paris Gemouchidis (formerly 582). Sometimes I practice with Alexandros Jakupovic (434).

How popular is tennis today in Greece and how well do you think it does against the more major sports in the country, such as basketball and football?

– Tennis is not as popular in Greece today but I still think that the popularity is increasing slowly. Tennis is however very expensive today.

Describe your strengths as a tennis player.

– The forehand is my biggest weapon, but I feel very stable in my ground strokes. Also my serve, when I feel it well.

You play with a one-handed backhand, something that we see less and less in today’s tennis compared to 20-30 years ago. Was it something that your coaches from a young age recommended or was it simply something that you wanted to teach yourself?

– It was my decision. I never liked the double-handed backhand and for me the one-handed backhand is the most natural stroke in tennis. Classic!

Which players do you currently look up to?

– I like Wawrinka, Del Potro and Federer. Each one for their own characteristics.

Why, do you think, have Greece not produced an established ATP Player earlier, when tennis today is a global sport with players from all over the world? Could it be economic or traditional aspect that comes into play?

– Well, partly it is the economic part and also the organization of Greek tennis. Our nation is not as structured and disciplined as the other countries in tennis. I can only take Constantinos Economidis and Theodoros Angelinos as living examples. They were two very talented players who were hungry, disciplined and determined. They really wanted to do something with their tennis. That’s what it comes down to, how much you are willing to sacrifice. It is tough, and you must be able to manage to travel all year round and be without friends and family.

The players had no support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– I’ve spoken to them and they have hardly received any help, just a couple of plane tickets.

Do you get any financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– No, but I’m already sponsored.

(The problems Tsitsipas are talking about are unfortunately something normal for many of the players on the Futures and Challenger Tours. Without financial support, it is almost impossible to take the steps into the ATP level, and some players thus have much greater ability to go all the way. While there is no guarantee at all of success whether you have financial support or not, the probability is of course much higher if you don’t.  That Economidis and Angelinos completely lacked financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation is of course shocking, but is at the same time says something about the country’s dismal status as a tennis nation.)

You finished third in the U18 European Championship in Switzerland a few weeks ago, was it the highlight of your career?

– It was a good experience, certainly, but I can not say it was the highlight of my career right away. A good tournament simply.

What does a typical day look like for you as a tennis player?

– I wake up, eat breakfast and then go and practice tennis. After that I go to the gym, lunch, rest, once again tennis, swimming, rest and sleep. I forgot dinner as well.

It sounds like a very hectic schedule?

– It is, absolutely. On Sundays I go to the movies though!

Have you dropped out of school or are you studying at a distance?

– I do all my courses through the Internet.

What have you to say about Mikael Ymer who is the same age as you, and additionally won the U18 European Championships?

– Mikael is a very good player with a great attitude. He really gives everything on the court and he’s always tough to face.

How does your schedule look for the rest of the year?

– I leave tomorrow for a 15,000 dollar tournament in Italy and then several Futures tournaments and Challenger-qualies are waiting for me.

We at Tennisportalen wish Stefanos the best of luck in his future tennis career and we want to thank him for taking the time to speak with us!

~

Translation of his original interview by Alex Theodoridis from tennisportalen.se  – https://twitter.com/tennisguru100

Jerzy Janowicz talks Davis Cup, journalists, and Darren Cahill

Original source: http://sport.se.pl/inne-sporty/tenis/jerzy-janowicz-dziennikarze-tworza-fikcje-na-moj-temat_646978.html

Super Express: The joy of winning that final point against Stakhovsky was bigger than after winning an ATP tournament?

This is a special tournament, you get into a kind of trance. Also because we don’t play only  for ourselves but also for the country. There’s more adrenaline than usual, hence my excitement and joy.

This victory allowed you to forget about Wimbledon? 

There was no need, I forgot Wimbledon very quickly.

After the first match against Dolgopolov on Friday, many reproached you for snubbing the press – you answered their questions very sparingly.

My answers were short because sometimes I feel that journalists write about me what they want, so there’s no point in making long answers. No matter what I say, they make up stories about me.

But not everybody is unreliable?

No, not everybody. There are fair journalists who write the truth.

Your performance at Wimbledon will be remembered by many not because of how you did on the court but because you asked one of  the Polish journalists to leave the presser room…

Did anything extraordinary happen at that presser? I asked a journalist, politely, to leave the room. I’ve known him for 10 years, I know how he works, what he says about me and how it goes against me. What was written about that presser later was pure fiction. It so happens that I’ve been recording my pressers so that I can listen to them later. We can replay it – they are recorded by Wimbledon organizers – and everybody can listen for themselves. The media reported that I said that fans had bothered me, that I blamed them for the loss – that’s absurd, a story made up by journalists. I was asked who was yelling at me during my serve and I said – some Pole. Some of the journalists fabricated a story that fans had bothered me and I was blaming them.  Maybe that’s why it’s better to answer in two words because the longer I speak, the worse it gets for me and they will still add words that I didn’t use.

Why have you decided to work with Darren Cahill?

I’m sponsored by Adidas and Mr. Cahill works with them, that’s how we got in touch, discussed some details and I’m glad he’ll be in my team of consultants.

How about your plans now? Are you thinking about the US Open?

It’s way too early to be thinking about it, every tournament is important and all points count towards the rankings. I’m leaving for the Bastad tournament today.

~

Translation by @jesna3

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

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

“I want more than No.56”

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

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

That’s it?

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

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

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

So it’s all good so far this season?

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

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

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

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

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

Are matches more important to you than individual training?

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

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

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

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

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

What were your highlights so far this season?

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

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

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

~

Translated by Katja

“Everyone wants to kick your butt.” Sam Sumyk on Eugenie Bouchard interviewed by @sophiedorgan in l’Équipe

Sam Sumyk is the French coach of the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. With his characteristic straight shooting, he talks about the current difficulties of the Wimbledon 2014 finalist.

After having stopped working with Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open at the end of January, Sam Sumyk wanted to stay put at his home in Los Angeles and satisfy his passion for surfing. In February he finally caught the Eugenie Bouchard wave and decided to throw himself into the water with the twenty-one year-old Canadian who had become one of the big women stars of last season. The results have as yet not been there this year for the number six player in the world, but the Breton isn’t the type to panic in the storm. After his player’s loss in Rome, he sat down to talk about his new adventure.

You’ve been working with Eugenie Bouchard since February. What gave you the desire to work with her?

She wanted to work with me. She’d been looking for a while and the girl said, “That’s him, the guy from the far end of Bretagne I have a good feeling for.” I know some big coaching names have tried. Sometimes you just have to act and think later. It’s a very personal decision. I didn’t think about her very much. I told myself: “I’ll learn a lot through her. I’ll keep my novice’s spirit.”

You have no regrets?

I can’t regret, because I’m the one who decided to stop with Azarenka and agreed to start with Eugenie. I could have said no, it was in my hands. What I want to do is coach and, every morning, not have the feeling I’m going to work. I’m exactly where I want to be. No one forced me.

But the results are lagging …

You have several choices when going through a storm. You can get depressed, you can attach a weight to your leg and jump of a bridge. Or, if you have character, and I think my player has lots of character, you try and bounce back. I know she’s going in that direction. Everything changed for her after her Wimbledon final.

Everything went very quickly for her.

Too quickly even. She went from “we don’t know who she is” to a Slam final. That’s heavy. All the parameters change. When you have good results and climb in the rankings, you enter the circle of the most hated players on the tour. By that I mean everyone wants to kick your butt. You have to be ready for that. Normally you prepare for it. She’s learning by doing. That’s very different, but I think she has everything it takes to pull through.

What are her qualities?

She has a lot of character, but she’s a bit more tortured at the moment. Very ambitious and perfectionist people are necessarily tortured. Her style of play is a quality. It’s clean hitting. It’s not the most powerful, but she has an enormous work capacity. Her ambition too, obviously, even if it’s weighing her down at the moment. It’s up to me to guide her and us, the team, to make an athlete out of her. She thirsts for knowledge.

But she’s having a crisis of confidence, no?

Yes, that’s obviously a part of it. Confidence, it’s the nerve of war. There’s the confidence that comes with results. There’s also self-confidence, that’s different. If we talk about results, obviously we’re lacking them a bit, but she’s on the right path. With the right attitude.

What’s the right attitude?

Even if it doesn’t assuage all worries, the better prepared you are, the better you’ll approach the tournaments. You have to take care of the things that depend on you. The rest, get rid of them right away. It’s good to create a new dynamic, to break certain habits etc. There’s a team around her that believes in her.

She has a semi to defend at Roland Garros …

It’s still a privilege to defend a semi-final. She’ll do it or she won’t. We don’t care. It won’t make her a worse player in 2015 than in 2014.  A number doesn’t determine if you’re a good player or not. That’s people’s opinions and we couldn’t care less.

But abstracting from all that is complicated, especially for a player so much in the media’s eye like that…

It’s part of the parameters you have to manage. Honestly, if the media didn’t ask her about it at every interview, I think she’d think a bit about it, but no more.

We expect too much from her?

Don’t worry, she expects a lot from herself! And we prefer to think in terms of progress and quality of play. When you’re among the very best you necessarily have points to defend every week. It’s no worse than someone who has to earn a salary every week to feed the family! I think it’s better (smiles).

For her peace of mind, her decision not to shake the hand of her opponent in Fed Cup was perhaps not a very good idea …

It’s not one of the best things she’s done, but it’s her business. She has her opinions and the right to have them. I don’t endorse it, I don’t say it’s good, but there are worse things on the planet …

It can unsettle her.Unless she wants to be the “bad girl” of the tour?

It doesn’t excuse her, but she has the naïvety to think that’s it’s not very serious. One shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. It’s not helpful. We haven’t spoken about it. Me, what I’ve noticed is that she was very nice with everyone. She says thank you, hello etc. And, at least, it has the merit of being honest. People sit on honesty in 2015. My job is to make her one of the best players in the world. The rest I leave to others.

Translated by MAN

Francesca Schiavone on the meaningful words in her life

From the print edition of l’Équipe June 24 2015 page 17, by Julien Giovanella

Francesca Schiavone, exuberant? On the court yes, but not in the players restaurant underneath Philippe Chatrier where she joins us for an interview. “We’ll speak quietly, there are people around,” says the player who will be thirty-five on 23 June, before she picks a lap of paper with a proper name, a number or a date randomly from an envelope. Five years ago in Paris she was the first Italian woman to win a Slam, and a year later she was a finalist. Now ranked 92 in the world and playing in her fifteenth Roland Garros. In a quiet voice.

15

This is my fifteenth Roland Garros (she’ll meet the Chinese Qiang Wang). I still remember the first in 2000. I lost in the first qualification round 7-5 in the third against a girl who was playing well at the time (actually 9-7 against the Polish Magdalena Grzybowska). I was young (not yet 20) and I wanted to start this nice fairy tail well … I knew I had to work and work some more, but I already felt at home. I didn’t ask myself  “will I succeed or not?” I just played, full stop. And I loved it. When I saw this stadium for the first time (in 1997 as a junior) I felt the history of tennis. I remember one day going right to the top of Philippe Chatrier. Steffi Graf and Monica Seles were playing (semis, 1999). I was entranced. I got out my Kodak (smiles). I still have photos of the match at home.

Fed Cup

It’s the only time you share your work and your passion with others. I was told from the start: “You’re important to us.” That gave me so much energy. … There was always joy, even when we lost. There was respect between us and that gave me an incredible strength to play above myself (she won the contest in 2006, 2009 and 2012 but hasn’t played since 2012).

Today

What makes me keep playing? I have a new challenge. For a moment, I wasn’t at peace with myself any more. I had some personal difficulties which I’m overcoming, and I want to rediscover myself at thirty-five (birthday on June 23). I want the serenity I had at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. It’s introspection to rediscover my balance and pleasure.

June

June 5 2010, on Philippe Chatrier, what a huge win. I gave myself a gift. It feels good to think about it. What I remember best is the second set tie-break (6-4, 7-6[2]) against Samantha Stosur). I felt all this energy inside me, my spirit and my body were one. My game, my mind, my tactics, my technique were responding perfectly …

Gabi Urpi

Gabi Urpi? Why this lap? Because he works with the French Tennis Federation? (He coaches the French Fed Cup team) He was my coach I shared with Flavia Pennetta. He has a lot of experience, but he also has great humanity, two things not easily found on the tour. The collaboration was a very nice page in my live.

Future

I see a picture with a lot of squares to put my wishes in. One might find: stay in tennis or stay at home and play “the mother”. There are other options too. If this new life were to start tomorrow, I wouldn’t be ready. I’m preparing. But I know myself and I might say from one day to the next: “I’m stopping, I don’t want to play tennis any more.” I hope not to do it, to take the time to make the right choice. I’m not thinking about it right now, I live in the moment.

4 H 44

That was so long (match won against Svetlana Kuznetsova at the 2011 Australian Open 6-4, 1-6, 16-14, the longest women’s match in Slam history). I’ve watched it sometimes since. (The whole match? we ask) No, I’m not crazy. Only the tough parts. The first time was on the same day with the physios, and that’s when I realised how long it was. On the court I was so concentrated that I didn’t think of either the length of the match or becoming 4 in the world if I won (her best ranking, achieved after the tournament).  What I was experiencing was so much nicer than that … Leaving the court, my toes on each foot were bathed in blood. It took me 2½ hours to get them out. After 4 hours and 44 minutes of pleasure, I experienced hell! That I well remember (laughs)!

Lin Zhu

(During the first round of the latest Indian Wells in March, her opponent, the Chinese Lin Zhu, had the ball bounce on her side before going over the net. The umpire saw nothing, the player said nothing and took the point, which was the second set winner.) She saw that the ball bounced on her side. The umpire, no, which is unbelievable.  He asked her, “what happened?” And she answered, “I don’t remember.” There, we have a problem. That’s a lack of respect for the sport and for life. I told her, “this is sport.” And since that day the phrase goes with me. It’s a whole philosophy of life other sports people, especially in cycling, defend, and which I hope to take with me when my career is over. Go and talk to her? What’s the point? Some of the younger players in the new generation don’t have those values, as opposed to Roger (Federer) Rafa (Nadal) Serena or Venus (Williams). We, the champions, need to be examples. You give your life on the court, but the respect and love are there win or lose.

Translated by MAN