“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

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Stan Wawrinka in l’Équipe on playing Novak Djokovic, friendship and his career

Translation of this piece by Julien Reboullet @djub22 in l’Équipe.

CONFIDENT

‘Novak: I can’t wait to play him again’

‘What does it give me, concretely, to be introduced as the “anti-Djoko” solution? Pleasure, obviously. But, having beaten him twice in Slams and pushed him to the limit at other times, it especially gives me confidence. In fact, I completely shook up Novak at Melbourne in 2013 (12-10 loss in the fifth set), our Slam matches have always been very close. USO semi in 2013 lost in five sets, quarter at the AO 2014 win in five, semi in Melbourne in 2015 lost in five, and finally my Roland win (4-.6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4) of course …

‘But as I often say, you still have to play him, and considering our rankings, it can only happen at the end of big tournaments. Most of the time, he’s there and I’m not .. It’s too bad, because I love playing him. Because playing the best is what I love the most. They’re the ones who give you the most problems. Playing Roger (Federer) in the semis of the last US Open ? I loved it. I lost in three, but I loved it. Novak, obviously, I can’t wait to play him again. My regret last year was not winning my QF at Wimbledon (lost to Richard Gasquet) to meet him in the semis, because then I’d have played him in every Slam.’

OPTIMIST

‘Some sand can get into the machinery’

‘I’m not the only one who has the weapons to bother Novak in a Slam. Roger has everything necessary. Was it because of mental problems or playing level recently? Only he knows, because he’s the one who lived through the matches. He he didn’t miss by much, he had so many chances. (loss in five sets, Wimbledon final 2014, then in four, Wimbledon final 2015, US Open 2015 and the semis at the last Australian Open). How long will Novak’s grip last? One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten: Roger dominated in the same way for a long period. And during the years he was largely on top of everyone (between 2004 and 2007, especially) we heard people say: “But there’s no one who will beat Federer in the next five years”. Except that didn’t happen. And Nadal, the year he imposed himself (2010), we heard them say: “OK, he’s going to win three slams a year for the next four years.” But the year after, his level dropped.

‘I think some sand can get into the Djokovic machine. When Novak is 100% and everything is working, like right now, no one can take him. What he produces is incredible. And that’s not going to change from one day to another. Just look at what happened after his Roland loss last year, he was huge (only three losses for the rest of the season) …

‘But getting back to the question: if, in 2016, finally, he only wins two slams, will we still say he’s dominating or it’s changed compared to last year? A little grain of sand, two losses in the semis at Slams and that would change his year, which would still be exceptional and he’d still be world number one. I think the change will mostly come from Novak himself. Just like Federer at the time: we didn’t see how he could lose, and the answer came from himself.

ALTRUIST

‘If I can help them, I try’

‘It’s true that I played a role in Mikael Tilstrom’s (Swedish coach) and Gaël Monfils’ association. Gaël he’s a friend, and we talked about it in August of last year. I saw that he was uncertain (about whom to work with), so I tried to add some depth to things. I asked him to name me some coaches he’d like, and he mentioned Tillström, saying he’d asked him two years ago, but Mikael had said no. And Gaël didn’t want to ask again, thinking he still didn’t want to. That’s when I acted a bit as an intermediary. I tried to convince Gaël to try again, and, at the same time, I tested the waters with Magnus (Norman, who works with Tillström at the Swedish Good to Great academy). I went back to Gaël and told him the answer might be different this time. He was trying to find himself, he didn’t know in which direction to go but he wanted to. I hope it works out.

‘Friends? If I can help them, I try. I don’t think about competition. In Chennai, at the start of the season I talked a lot with Benoit (Paire), and gave him my thoughts on a lot of things.And then Yannick (Fattebert, a friend his own age from Valais, Switzerland who follows him on the tour for a few weeks every year as a hitting partner) who was there told me: “It’s incredibly cool what you’re doing, because he’s an adversary.” Maybe, but Benoit is a friend. OK, he’s a potential adversary, but first of all, so much the better if he progresses and, secondly, how many times will we face each other during our careers? If Gaël improves because of Tillström and beats me, it won’t change my life, it can just change my week [smiles].

NO LIMITS

‘I hope to be at a very high level at 35’

‘I don’t look ahead but my goal is to play for a long time. I hope to be at a very high level at thirty-five. But is this very high level 15th in the world, and that would be good because I’m not Federer? Or is it top 10? I know how fast things can change. So I don’t set goals, but I don’t set any limits either. And that’s why I won the Australian Open in 2014 and Roland in 2015. I never tell myself: “I’d like to win this Slam” or “I’d like to win this Masters 1000”. That’s not me and, in any case, I’m not strong enough to do it. My goal is to be in top form each time I go on court. That’s my way of managing things so sometimes, like last year at Roland, something big happens. I’m not as strong as the best. They’ve been there for ten years, me, I’m new. I feel strong enough to beat everyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.

‘With Magnus (Norman, his coach), we haven’t set any time limits. It’s important that we both want to see each other, to train and to look a bit further ahead. I think we’ll both know immediately when that’s no longer the case.’

Translated by MAN

 

“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

“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

“It ends up getting depressing” – Antoine Benneteau, Julien’s younger brother on life on the Futures tour

Article in l’Équipe print edition April 7 2015 by Julien Reboullet

“It ends up getting depressing.” Antoine Benneteau, Julien’s younger brother and once ranked 370 in the world, talks about his experience at tennis’ bottom echelon between 2011 and 2014, “a world of scraping by.”

After studying in the United states, Andtoine Benneteau, at the age of twenty-five, tried his hand at playing professional tennis in 2011. He shared hotel rooms with Élie Rousset [see this piece for more on Élie] . But, after three years, drained by a system that obliges you to count every penny, he gave up on his dream. Today he’s an intern at L’Équipe 21 and hopes to become a sports journalist. He reviews his first career.

Of course you’re a professional when you play on the Futures tour because you put in the same number of hours training as the best players and you invest the same amount in personal sacrifices, clean living, family ties, friends etc. The difference is that even when you do it to earn a living, you end up doing it for as little cost as possible. When you say you’re leaving to play a $10K, it doesn’t mean the winner gets $10,000. That’s the total prize money. The winner gets something like $1,000 [€911]. When you decide to go on a several week road trip at the other end of world, that’s not a lot. In May 2012 I left for Mexico and put together, in three tournaments, title-final-final. Even though the cost of living isn’t very high there, even though you try and find the least expensive flights, ones with multiple flight changes, even though you have five hour trips in unlikely vehicles in the middle of the night … In short, even if you’re very careful with  every expense, you hardly make ends meet. On this trip I had to make do with winnings of 200 or 300 euros maximum.

“You really get to know yourself”

Obviously it’s nothing like the “big” tour. For example, while the best get six or eight racquets strung for every match, even ones they don’t use, I had one racquet strung for every tournament because it’s 15 dollars each. At this level you never get anything from equipment sponsors. I was lucky enough to get my shoes, my clothing, my racquets and and my stringing, which wasn’t too bad. French players at that level can rely on some brands. But how many ‘foreign’ players get free tee-shirts? It’s a world of scraping by.

Before a long journey you always look to see if there are other Frenchmen signed up for those ‘exotic’ tournaments. That way you can share rooms [accommodation is almost never paid by the tournaments any more], we co-ordinate flights, we can play doubles together. And we have someone we can train and eat with. The week gets easier.

At twenty-five, in the summer of 2011, I started off from zero after my university thing and I got up to a ranking of 700 in my first year. The second year, 370. I had some matches then that could have turned things around, brought me higher. There were missed match points etc. The real markers are 500, 350 and 250. Once you’re at 250, you can play Challengers, get a shot at Slam qualies. You get a glimpse of what you’re looking for a bit. You have to be gripped by the system. But the system ends up wearing down your passion. At some point you look at the number of hours spent on court, how much money you’ve spent and how much you’ve made …and it ends up getting depressing. I quit, but I have no regrets; I travelled around the world, you really get to know yourself and you learn ten thousand times more. It’s a school of life.

~

Translation by MAN

“It would be mission impossible” – Marion Bartoli has no thoughts of a comeback

Translated from l’Équipe print edition April 3, 2015 page 11. Article by Vincent Cognet.

Marion Bartoli is “getting such a kick” from her “second life” that she’s never thought of returning to competition.

Marion Bartoli divides her life today between Dubai and London and admits she “spends a lot of time on planes.”  This week the 2013 Wimbledon champion, only thirty, is in Miami commentating for TennisTV. Just before the Suarez Navarro – Petkovic semi-final, and sitting at a table in front of a large salad, she agreed to take stock of her new life and women’s tennis.

A month ago on Twitter you asked your fans if they’d like you to come back to the tour. Was the idea in the back of your head?

[laughs] They say often that fans don’t get a chance to express their opinions. As I kept hearing some my fans constantly asking me the same question, I told myself I’d tweet asking their opinion. The answer was clear: I should stay with my win at Wimbledon.

But you would have seriously considered it if the answer had been the opposite?

I don’t think it would have changed my decision. I had a very clear head about it. And I’m so involved in my “second life”, being creative, painting, fashion etc. The fact is that I’m getting such a kick from this life that I don’t think about tennis.

You’ve got remarkably trim in the last few months. Are you sure you don’t miss the competition?

It’s for my swimsuit in Miami [laughs]. Seriously, I’m very happy with my private life and my restructuring. I needed to get back into shape for Strive, a charity. I ran three marathons and did 1,400 km cycling. And I’m still playing exhibitions. I love playing tennis so much. It’s a pleasure now to go onto a court. But I never tell myself: “It really was good when I played.”

What you’ll never get again is the adrenaline …

Exactly. It’s impossible to get back the adrenaline rush that I felt when I served for the Wimbledon title [she served an ace against Sabine Lisicki to win 6-1, 6-4 on July 6, 2013]. I knew what I was leaving when I quit. I put a cover over it. It would be a mission impossible. If I didn’t, I would be eternally frustrated and it would tear me apart. On the other hand, when I need a lift, I put the Wimbledon final back on, and it’s there again.

You watch it often?

I refuse to count! My friend knows it: when I’m feeling a bit blue, he takes the DVD and slides it into my computer. And I watch the match again … and I’m pumped up again.

What do you think of today’s women’s tennis?

I’m wondering about Eugénie Bouchard who’s sliding badly down the rankings and who undoubtedly made a mistake changing coaches in the middle of the season (her split with Nick Saviano was announced on 25 November 2014, not the ‘middle of the season’ [MAN]). In general I see a new generation arriving, Pliskova, Keys, Muguruza, Garcia, Dodin who are a new prototype of player: they all have a big serve and try to end points after two or three shots. That’s the evolution of tennis. And it’s not by chance that Serena and Sharapova are the only ones staying at the top. They’re the only ones playing like that. With the exception of Halep who has exceptional defence, I think intermediate games will disappear.

You’ve followed the formidable Fed Cup run of the French team?

I watched the matches on the telly. Seeing them get back into the World Group shows a real cohesion on the team. It’s Amélie [Mauresmo] who made the link. She has the ability to bring together, to instil confidence … suddenly the players are moving mountains on the court.

You don’t regret not having experienced a collective adventure like that?

– First of all, it wasn’t the same captain during my time. And my rule is never to live with regrets.

Translated by MAN

“I have a father who put me in a cage,” Timea Bacsinszky opens up about her childhood interviewed by @flaberne

From the print edition of l’Équipe, March 19 2015 page 13. Interview by Frédéric Bernes

The Swiss Timea Bacsinszky hasn’t stopped winning in 2015. And yet she’s come from a long way back.

Last night Timea Bacsinszky challenged Serena Williams on Court 1 in the Indian Wells quarter-finals. Before the shock against the world number one, the 25-year-old Swiss, 26th in the world, was coasting on a series of 15 wins in a row. It’s been twenty-one wins and two losses [Halep in the final at Shenzhen and Muguruza in the third round of the Australian Open] since the beginning of the year for Bacsinczky. It’s impressive in itself, but is brought even more into relief by the knowledge that she had stopped playing tennis two years ago with a career in the hotel business in mind. At the time, it wasn’t so much tennis but her father she was escaping from. And then she got an email asking her to sign up for the Roland Garros 2013 qualifications. She told herself, why not?  And she was off again. For herself and no one else this time. She tells her story:

Exactly two years ago I was arranging the date to start my internship in a five-star hotel. For me it was over, I wasn’t going to play any more. I told my friend: “Ok, fine, I’m going to serve coffee in cafés.” And I would have loved it.

That’s when you find out that you aren’t aware of the resources a human being can have. I still can’t get over having put together those two weeks in Mexico [she’d just won Acapulco and Monterrey back-to-back] and to win even more matches here. It’s almost unreal.

Considering the athlete I was before – really, athlete in quotation marks, because I was in really sub-standard condition – I don’t even know how I managed to get up to 37th [in 2010]. I was ultra clever, I read the others’ games well but I never worked on my own. It was just a continuation of the world I’d been put in. It’s one thing to want celebrity, money, all the shiny stuff, but I wasn’t a happy person. I was hiding from reality. I had my little tennis success, I imagined kids wanted to do what I did, but they didn’t really know. I couldn’t go all out because I had a father, really just a sire – I know the words are rough, but it’s an objective view of the situation – who put me in a cage. A prison. I don’t want to complain, that people say: “Oh that poor girl!” By telling my story, I tell myself that it might help other people. Open eyes.

My mother is a dentist. So it wasn’t likely to be her who would show me how to hit a forehand. My dad is a tennis pro. I was three when he brought me onto a tennis court for the first time. He saw quickly that the project that was unsuccessful with his two other kids [by another mother] was possible with me. My mother didn’t say no. Did she sense what I was feeling? I don’t know … I’m not upset with her. She brought in the money so her family could live, she couldn’t see everything, know everything.

I didn’t have a cool childhood. I remember there were hotlines for children who were not being treated well and thinking about calling them ate me up. But I was afraid that he [her father Igor] would see on the bill that I’d dialled that number and I would have problems … I was never hit. I got a few slaps, he pulled my hair … But it was mostly psychological. I thought about running away. I’d searched the Internet to find out about how to run away successfully. I suffered from the “pushy parents” syndrome, which is pretty widespread in tennis. And we still don’t know everything. The WTA prefers to show all the nice stories. But if I look around me, if I look at the stats … To me, parents, they’re not made to coach. Any parent can teach a kid how to play tennis. It’s enough to read books. After, you have to step down.

My father never took care of me except on the tennis court. Taking care of your kid isn’t throwing a tennis ball at her. I didn’t have a father. I don’t see him any more, I don’t talk to him and that’s the way it will be to the end. I’m not lacking in anything. My childhood was stolen. My adolescence was stolen too. You couldn’t take Timea out of tennis. Me, I only had one wish: to get away. The worst thing is, I’d certainly have played better if he’d let me breathe. On the court I had a moment where I could escape his control. He told me, “play crosscourt there.” And I’d play down the line. Except there would come the moment where I had to win the match, otherwise he’d make me pay [she twice won The Little Aces, the official World Championship for under 14’s, as Martina Hingis did]. When you’re afraid of what might happen to you if you lose, you develop a special thing. But I think I loved competition when I was a kid. What kid doesn’t like to win? I’m convinced that when I was very small, I loved tennis. But he made me hate it.

He had this unhealthy desire to shine, to be known, that people would say he was the best coach. To do that it was no problem for him to scream at me. Money? He surely wanted to end his life in a palace. When I got my first sponsor, he quit work to become my coach. It was the worst moment of my life.

He took a nice little salary with his girl’s sponsor. He bought me one or two pairs of jeans because he needed to give a carrot to the donkey.   When I was fifteen, I forced my mother to divorce him. If she didn’t, I didn’t want to see either of them ever again. Happily, I had school. I was so happy to learn new things, new Swiss things I couldn’t learn at home because my father is Hungarian. I lied to my father to take part in intramural competitions. I’d hidden my running shoes under my history book. I’d become a professional liar. I had to get around him all the time just to live, or survive. I don’t know. I was lucky to have nannies at home. One of them gave me the love of cooking. I made soups for my mother in the evening with my nanny. I was happy then.

I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last two years. I’ve finally understood why I couldn’t do more before. Because if I shone, “he” shone too. With what I’ve endured, people who know me ask me how I managed to stay out of drugs and alcohol. At one time, I went out a lot in Lausanne. I must have been a sorry sight. During the day I was glued to the settee. In some ways it was good I got injured [a foot in 2012]. In 2013, I started an internship in a palace in Villars. In September I was supposed to enter hotel school. Maybe later, I’ll go back.

Translated by Mark Nixon