“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

Advertisements

“It’s more the French who are teasing me” – Amélie Mauresmo interviewed by @fLaberne in lÉquipe

From the print edition of lÉquipe March 16 2015. Interview by Frédéric Bernes

Amélie Mauresmo isn’t talking much with Andy Murray about the upcoming Davis Cup meeting between the UK and France. She won’t be there, but she has a rock-solid alibi.

After a break of a week for the Davis Cup, Amélie Mauresmo has met up again with “her” Andy Murray at Indian Wells, where the Scot imposed himself from the start by defeating Vasek Pospisil [6-1,6-3]. Very relaxed on the California soil, the Frenchwoman says she’s delighted and proud of soon entering the tennis Hall of Fame and is happy about the arrival of Jonas Björkman at her side to coach Murray.

18 July, perhaps on grass at Queen’s, it will be Davis Cup doubles day between Great Britain and France. But you, where will you be?

Not there, that’s certain. I’ll be making an unscheduled trip [smiles].

You’ll be then at Newport in the United States for your induction into the Hall of Fame …

– Of course. It makes me super proud. It’s recognition from my peers. You see that not everyone gets in, it gives you an exclusivity and selectivity that’s not disagreeable. It’s good for the ego [laughs]. It’s a time to look back at what you’ve done. Me, I hadn’t been looking back. Now I notice that I’ve made a mark on the history of my sport.

Without this ceremony, would you have gone to this Davis Cup quarter-final?

Really, no. I have a whole series of things to do between the Fed Cup in April [semi finals in the Czech Republic with France] and Wimbledon. I want to be quiet and rest. And if I went, all my reactions would be scrutinised, so …

Do talk about the Davis Cup with Andy Murray?

-No, we haven’t talked much about it. We’re here and we have to manage his post-Davis Cup. He gave quite a bit in Glasgow [3-1 win over the United States]. It’s more the French who are teasing me [laughs].

When the challenge draws near, will it become taboo to talk about the French players with Andy?

Of course not. He knows as much as I do about the guys. They’re his generation, he’s played them all tonnes of times. I don’t know how I could tell him anything new.

I hope he’ll (Björkmann) will be in Miami.

What do you know about his lieutenant James Ward, the hero of Glasgow last weekend?

He was with us last winter in Miami during the preparation. Andy pulls everyone up. Suddenly James and the kid Kyle Edmund want to show him that he’s not all alone. Right now, Ward is a guy who’s hitting well. He doesn’t have a flashy game. He’s not very consistent yet.

We know that the Swede Jonas Björkman [ world number 4 in 1997] will join you very soon on Andy Murray’s team. How are you taking it?

Very well. When Dani [Valiverdu, now Berdych’s coach] left, it was obvious we needed someone. I would have preferred to have found someone between the seasons, but Andy likes to take his time and think over things. I gave him a few names [Loïc Courteau was among them], Andy offered others and Jonas’ name came up.

Do you know him?

Not well, but I work quite a bit on instinct and I feel he’s a guy who could stick. We’re awaiting his arrival. I hope it will be in Miami, but I don’t know if he’s finished with Dancing With the Stars [Swedish Version].

You’ve already spoken on the telephone?

Of course. We talked about Andy’s game, how things work … Now they have to try things out together. If it works well, we’ll offer to share the tournaments. I think it would be a super addition. I even wanted Jonas to go to Dubai [in February] with Andy.

For the Hall of Fame, you need to choose someone to make an introductory speech. And if you chose Andy Murray?

– Oh yeah, not a bad idea [laughs]

Translated by Mark Nixon

Please use the comments section for comments and suggestions. They’re always welcome.

Caroline Garcia: “Hey! There’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number”

An interview by Frédéric Bernes in the 15 March 2015 l’Équipe print edition.

Garcia is “Miss Latina”.  The trend is confirmed.  Now ranked 28, the 21-year-old native of Lyon won her only title in Bogotá last year.  And now she’s reached two consecutive finals in Acapulco and Monterrey, each time meeting the same woman: Timea Bacsinszky.  Goodbye Mexico, it treated you well.  Now the locale has moved to the Californian desert where heat was oppressive yesterday (34°C). Yesterday, Garcia was in a tussle and escaped with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 win over the Slovenian Polona Hercog, ranked 75, in 2 hrs 17 minutes.

Would you say your Mexican tour was a success or was there one more win missing, like a title…

“Considering the circumstances before making the trip, I’m very happy with the two finals. I might have gone out in two first rounds.  There were no titles at the end of it but going through all that was good experience.  I’d gone to Dubai just after the Fed Cup.  We all know how the Fed Cup eats up energy.  Especially when you win the deciding doubles 3-2 [which is what happened in Italy].  I reached the doubles semi-finals in Dubai, so I left Sunday evening—for Lyon.  It was either that or spend seven hours waiting at an airport.  After that, I took three flights: Lyon-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Mexico, and Mexico-Acapulco.  Because the final there was scheduled for Saturday, I had to play on Tuesday.”

It seemed that between Acapulco and Monterrey there was a change of season…

“It was summer in Acapulco.  It was 30°C and very humid.  And then we went from the seaside to a refrigerator.  It was 10°C sometimes in Monterrey.  Even 8°C, I think.  There’s a heat limit in the rules, but not one for cold.”

You didn’t lose a set on the trip…

[cuts off] “Yeah, except in the final! [laughs]. OK, that means I had some solid matches.”

The one against Ivanovic [6-1, 6-4 in the Monterrey semis] made an impression. Was it a good match?  A great match?

“A good match.  I wasn’t playing out of my head—not that, no.  I put her under pressure from the start and she couldn’t deal with it [Garcia meets the Serb in the next round].  It’s my best match this season but I wasn’t putting everything I had into it by hitting like a crazy person.”

There are good vibrations between you and Latin America…

“I love that part of the world.  I made the finals there in Casablanca [Mexico] as a junior and I won in Venezuela.  I like the people in those countries.”

And they must like a woman called Garcia…

“It’s a good name to have there, true.  It plays well.  There are a lot of Garcias in Mexico.”

Did you get the impression that you found more solutions from one final to the other against Bacsinszky?

“I won three games in Acapulco [6-3, 6-0] and I won more in Monterrey [4-6, 6-2, 6-4]—so, yes.  Like she disappeared for a bit and we didn’t know her game. She runs everywhere, she gets everything back.  She has this incredible backhand. You can’t tell where it’s going.  She shifts gears on her backhand [like Benoit Paire].”

You’ve never been ranked as high before as you are this week.  Is that important to you?

“Getting into the top 30, that means something.  Hey, there’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number! [laughs].  It’s one of those small peaks you need to climb over; it gets you seeded in the big tournaments [here she’s seeded 25].”

We saw that your left thigh was very well taped up…

“No, it’s OK. It’s nothing now.  [Her father and coach interrupts: ‘It was still a muscle pull.’]  Yes, but it’s gone now. [Louis-Paul: ‘You couldn’t hit for three days.’]”

When will Nathalie Tauziet, who’s been advising you for a few months, join you?

Louis-Paul: “We don’t have any finalised plans.”

But it’s still on?

Louis-Paul: “We’ve always worked in stages—with Nathalie like with others.  We have a base core, Caroline and me, which we add to.  But we have no finalised plans there.”

Timea Bacsinszky: “I need time to catch my breath.”

Combined from two interviews in the 14 March 2015 print editions of La Tribune de Genève and Le Matin (Switzerland) by the same journalist, “SI”.

Timea Bacsinszky needs to catch her breath after an explosive beginning to the season.  After the tournament in Indian Wells, the Vaude native won’t take part in the Premier Mandatory event in Miami.

Eighteen wins in 20 matches, three finals, two titles: Timea Bacsinszky couldn’t dream of a better start to the season.  The Vaude native (WTA 26), who started her Indian Wells appearance with a match against the New Zealander Marina Eraković (WTA 80), sums up her 2015 season start.

Is the start of the season like being in a dream?

“I’m delighted by what’s happened.  But it’s not like a dream because I know what I’ve had to go through to get here.  I always felt the investment would pay off.  But that doesn’t mean you can let up.”

How did you celebrate your two titles in Mexico?

“There was nothing special.  In Acapulco, we simply ate at the hotel.  My coach  [Dimitri Zavialoff] and my friend had a glass of wine, but not me.  In Monterrey, the final ended very late and we got back to the hotel at 3:30am.  I just took ten minutes or so to savour what I’d accomplished.”

Have you set new goals for yourself after your flourishing season start?

“I just want to see how far I can go playing my best tennis.  That way, at the end of my career, I can say that those were my limits.”

What’s your recipe for success?

“Besides the fact that you have to work hard without expecting immediate results, I feel I’ve become more professional both on and off the court.  I’ve managed to find a good balance between Timea the player and Timea the woman. In short, I’m at peace with myself.”

You feel fulfilled then?

“Yes.  I’ve never been this happy before in my life—and it’s lasted for two years now.  I feel good about my life, something I’d never felt when I was younger.”

Do you go back and think sometimes about 2013 when you’d almost quit tennis to start an internship in hotel management?

“I was happy at the time to try something new!  I really enjoyed my work in that hotel.  And it’s not impossible that I’ll go back to that in the future.  The big difference is that in 2013 I got no pleasure from playing tennis.  But things have changed in the meantime, and two years later I’m in Indian Wells.”

You said in Monterrey that you wanted not only to become a better player but a better person.  What did you mean by that?

“I didn’t say I was a bad person.  I’m like anyone else.  I just don’t want success to go to my head.  The are a lot of people who mean a lot to me in my life and I don’t want ever to forget them.”

You’ve had difficulties with your father.  Where are you in your relationship with him?

“I haven’t spoken with him in several years.  It’s my decision and I don’t care if he respects it or not.  He has no rights over me and I want to live my life the way I want.”

On the other hand, your relationship with your coach Dimitri Zavialoff is in good shape.

“Yes, he’s a terrific coach.  He adapts very well to the people he works with and allows them to develop.  Working with him is very stimulating.  He started coaching Stan [Wawrinka] at a very young age, bringing him to the top 10 in the world.  And despite his success he’s always stayed grounded.  I could really keep talking for hours about his qualities.”

After Indian Walls, you’re skipping the Miami tournament. Isn’t it a shame to miss such an important tournament considering your current form?

“I’ve played an enormous number of matches since the start of the season.  I need time to catch my breath, but also to prepare the rest of my season, starting with the Fed Cup in the middle of April.”

About the Fed Cup, would you welcome Martina Hingis to the team?

“Of course!  It would be wonderful to have such a great champion on the team. And on a personal level, I think I could learn a lot by being in contact with her. But even if it doesn’t happen, this Swiss team should be able to aim for promotion into the World Group.”

Translated by Mark Nixon.

We welcome suggestions and comments on the translation and other relevant things. Please use the comments section.

Adrian Mannarino: “It’s up to me to make my mark”

“It’s up to me to make my mark”

An interview by Frédéric Bernes in the 11 March 2015 print edition of l’Équipe (page 12).

Adrian Mannarino may be 38 in the world, but he’s still unknown to most people. 

He won’t be pestered by paparazzi and drones won’t fly over his house any time in the near future.  At twenty-six, Adrian Mannarino plays it discreetly.  So much so that that it’s not generally well known that he’s one of the seven Frenchmen in the top 40 and that he has a wonderful deadpan sense of humour.

We left you in Melbourne at the second round taking morphine with a bloated stomach…

“I was afraid of becoming dehydrated, I’d drunk an enormous amount of very cold water, and my stomach swelled… Some losses are worse than others (he was ahead 6-4, 6-4, 4-0 against Lopez, 14 in the world, and had had match point at 5-3 before giving up in the fourth set).  The match stayed with me for a while.  I still got the feeling a month after that I was on court 2 over there with match point. Some losses make you want to improve.  That one bugged me.”

You’re number 38 in the world, but it’s not well known. Does that bother you?

“We have a super generation, some very charismatic guys like Gaël [Monfils], Jo [Tsonga].  I’m aware that outside of the tennis world, no one knows me.  I don’t necessarily feel bad about it.  It’s up to me to make my mark.”

But instead of taking the spotlight in Montpellier and Marseille, you play in Zagreb or Memphis! Why that schedule?

“I found myself seeded second in Zagreb without being sure of being seeded in Montpellier.  I scheduled tactically, like I usually do.  I compare the conditions, I look where the entry list is the most favourable…”

French number 7—do you feel you’re in the middle of the group of eight or nine players Arnaud Clément talks about for the French team?

“Not yet. I’d have to pass some more tests.  When I thought Gaël wasn’t going to Germany (before changing his mind), I told myself it might happen, even if I think a player like Jérémy Chardy deserves it more.  But I look forward to playing it one day.”

You’re surely one of the ones who spends the most time in the States. You like it that much?

“I love it.  There’s a always a terrific training infrastructure.  The people love athletes here, whereas in Europe we’re often considered to be idiots.”

You’ve been coached for the last ten months by Éric Prodon, who’s thirty-three. Isn’t it bizarre to have a coach the same age as Federer?

“Our relationship has evolved.  Éric was still a player when we started at Roland Garros.  But he’s managed to put on a coach’s hat this winter.  On the court, he can be very tough.  I think I’m into it and he tells me: ‘You haven’t moved your arse for half an hour.  You haven’t hit one clean shot!’  That’s good because sometimes the player isn’t aware.”

Why did you leave the Federation?

“Because I felt that Oliver Ramos [the coach he was sharing with Rufin] wasn’t there enough for me.  Today, I pay Éric out of my pocket and that’s fine.  It’s a shame that some players need to stay for financial reasons when they’re not happy with the situation.”

You’re a lefty, you have a flat game based on timing. Do you like your game?

“Not too much, no.  I’d like to have a punchier game, sharper.  When it’s going badly, I get annoyed quickly and I don’t enjoy it.  My coach tells me to enjoy myself, but if I start enjoying myself, I play 15/4 [laughs].  I volley, try different things… This morning, I played a super practice with Falla.  We end in a tie-break and Eric tells me: ‘Go on! Enjoy yourself!’  OK, well, I took it 7-1 and I was ridiculous” [laughs].

~

Translated by Mark Nixon.

Nicolas Mahut on being selected for the French Davis Cup team for the first time: “I never give up”

From Franck Ramella’s article in l’Équipe March 4 2015, print edition page 13.

“I never give up.” Nicolas Mahut in l’Équipe to @franckramella

– Just before you got here I was talking with some friends about the team over-35 matches held by the TCP [Tennis Club of Paris] … Just saying that these meetings, they’re my education, my path. At Beaucouzé, my little home town [near Angers], I went along with my mother and father who played over-35 on a county level.  I got the chance to play with all the French teams – in the Winter Cup, Copa del Sol, Galéa or Borotra, all those child or junior competitions. So obviously my Holy Grail is playing the Davis Cup and winning. I’ve always trained with that as my number one objective. I grew up with the 1991 win. I was nine, I was at home, I remember it exactly, I didn’t see the whole doubles because I had a tournament. When I heard that I was selected against Germany, I told myself, “There you go – I didn’t do it all for nothing.” Seriously, I didn’t see it coming at all. I could have been selected before. When I was up to 40 in 2008 Guy [Forget] called me to tell me that I wasn’t far off. I’ve distance myself a lot since last year, but always with the idea of being the best I could possibly be. And if I’m there, it’s because I didn’t give up.

“That’s my trademark. I go all out. In 2009 I was pretty well broken everywhere with my shoulder and elbow [right side], before the Federation held a hand out to my by putting me into one of their groups. I missed five months in 2013 because of my left knee. But every time I fell, I built myself back up going all out so I wouldn’t have any regrets. Because I have a real passion for this sport, because I want to be able to look at myself in a mirror later on. Yes I’ve made mistakes. I haven’t had enough self confidence. I expected too much from those around me for a very long time. I expected them to have answers when it’s the player who has the answers. Climbing back up is learning. Three times I’ve been way down and got back up into the top 100. I think I really have mental resources. The match against John [Isner] us a perfect example. I literally felt what I could do better in terms of concentration. I can still use it in moments of extreme stress in certain matches.

“I’m full of desire, I’m fresh today. I’m lucky to have an exceptional woman at home who pushes me to the limit of what I can do. She tells me, ‘It can last another three or four years, after that you can do something else.’ OK, maybe I shouldn’t tell her that Nestor and Mirnyi are still playing at 43 and 37 … But I’m not putting up any barriers because I haven’t reached the objectives I’ve set for myself. One goal is to go the the Rio Olympics next year. Also to win a Slam doubles. The fact that I played with Mika (Llodra, notably in 2013) gave me a lot, not just his advice about doubles but also because he kept repeating non-stop that if we played together, it was to win a big title. And just by hearing it repeated you tell yourself, ‘Yeah, he’s right, that’s where we belong.’ It makes a huge difference starting out. I have more confidence today, I know myself better. I feel perfectly prepared physically. I owe a huge debt to Xavier Moreau and to Jean-Michel Levêque who have fixed my knee up. If I’d trained like this earlier, I would have had better results. Right now Thierry [Ascione, his coach] tells me he hasn’t seen me play this well in two years …”


Translated by Mark Nixon

Please use the comment section for suggestions about the translation; they’re appreciated.

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

Potential delays to Roland Garros development plans

From l’Équipe print edition 18 February, 2015.
Article written by Philippe Maria

While the French Federation of Tennis were expecting that the building permits needed to begin the planned Roland Garros extension works of Roland Garros would be issued any day soon, a report published online last Monday evening (on the Ministry of Ecology’s website) could cause a delay.  Yesterday, through its general director, Gilbert Ysern, the FFT spoke out to voice its incomprehension. A political maelstrom followed and looks far from ending.

What is the problem?

After three years of petty administrative wars, the RG extension project (handover planned in stages between 2017 and 2019) finally looked to be on track. All systems were go for the Federation which was only waiting for the building permits to launch the public tender procedure. And, bam! In a period of peace, an unexpected report came, Monday evening, on the website of the Ministry of Ecology, concluding that an (old) alternative project, based on covering the A13 motorway was feasible..

In itself, this report, which has no legal value (it can’t delay the issuance of building permits) could have been ignored by the federal officials. As a very wound-up Gilbert Ysern said yesterday: “We did not wait for this alleged study to know that it was technically possible to cover the motorway next to Roland Garros. If tomorrow, we wished to dismantle the Eiffel tower and assemble it back in my garden in Narbonne, of course that would be feasible. But how much would it cost? How much time would it take and who would pay for it?”

The problem is that this report comes from the general Agency for Environment and Sustainable Development, which is a unit of the Ministry of Ecology, and that, to definitively approve the expected building permits, two signatures are needed: the signature of the Ministry of Culture, which should not be an issue; and the signature of… the ministry of Segolène Royal. [i.e. Ministry of Ecology.]

Was the Federation expecting it?

For several weeks, even if it’s not admitting to it, the FFT had heard that the former presidential candidate, who lives close to the stadium, was trying to obstruct the project, to the point that, during a presentation to the president of the Republic, François Hollande, the subject had allegedly been diplomatically addressed. Indeed, from the city hall of Paris to the Elysée, via Matignon, the file seemed to have unanimous approval. That being said, nobody in Porte d’Auteuil was expecting the report. This explains the (feigned?) incomprehension from Ysem: “For the first time, the project is attacked by part of the administration,” he said, “Yet it comes at a time when the government supports the organisation of the 2024 Olympics in the capital – a venture that the new Roland Garros would be a part of. Thus I can’t believe the government is opposing our project.” The FFT general director explained that he had managed to book an appointment with Ségolène Royal before it was cancelled by phone due to other commitments. “We only spoke on the phone. It was before the report was published (Monday).” The Ministry of Ecology, which we contacted yesterday, didn’t respond to our request for a comment.

Could the current project be reconsidered?

Considering that the signature of the Ministry of Ecology is necessary for the building permits to be issued, yes. Even if Ysem refuses to believe it.  “This project has passed every administrative obstacle, including the last public inquiry report, which had laudatory conclusions. And now that we are finally approaching the final chapter, it’s like someone is tapping on our shoulder saying: ‘we are changing the rules, you are going back for three rounds! What people don’t realise is that for us, who have to prepare the tournament before it is played, two months is a year! Because Roland Garros cannot stop during the construction. It would be suicide.”

While Yves Contassot, Parisian consultant for “Europe Ecologie les Verts,” highlighted the “technical and legal viability of the alternative project”, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago, didn’t delay yesterday in coming to the aid of the FFT:  “I am worried about the delay suffered by this project, which is indispensable to maintaining this international tournament in Paris. The covering of the A13 motorway is brought up once more today, while two studies have concluded that it was not relevant. The series of procedures (not counting construction time) would be long and complex… The handover would take place, at best, in 2025 or 2026. At a time when Paris is considering being a candidate for the 2024 Olympics, such a delay in the extension of Roland Garros would be a very bad signal to send to the IOC. I appeal to each and everyone’s responsibility so that this project, which has been the subject of substantial consultation and will be part of the international influence of Paris and France, may see the light of day within the agreed time frame.”