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

 

Advertisements

“He gives you nothing, not even the time of day.” Emmanuel Planque, Lucas Pouille’s coach, on the improved Milos Raonic by @flaberne of l’Équipe

Translation of the article by Frédéric Bernès on page 19 of the January 26, 2016 edition of l’Équipe.

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.”

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit dazed coming off the court. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t thrilled by the way Lucas started off sets … but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Slam winner for two years. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less formidable and less well prepared than Raonic. He he has fewer weapons.

“Second serves at 220, 224, 226 kph”

“He’s super confident with his serve. At Brisbane and Melbourn, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 kph. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you back up, he hits a kicker that bounces really high; if you move up to cut down the trajectory, you get a bullet at 220. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He powers it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve at between 160 and 180. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.”

“Before, he could miss a series of returns”

“He’s improved his base game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had a nerve in his foot operated on. Good health means more training intensity. You can tell he’s worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss second serve returns in bunches. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any crazy risks. He returns hard up the middle which allows him to take a lot of second shots on his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10-15 kph on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that’s much better than the others.”

“To me he’s not a Canadian at all”

“He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not at all a Canadian. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is upright, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (gone to Federer) helped with his serve and second shot. He leaves and he takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (ex-coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who’s a super coach and who’s doing an admirable job with him.”

“It’s lousy, it’s not sexy? I don’t agree”

“Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that sort of pessimism. I hear people say Raonic is dull, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! It wouldn’t be dull because those chasing him would be interesting. It would be really exciting. Sure, the tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m moving like guys 1.75 and who can return too. Can these criticisms affect Raonic? I sense he’s there to win. The rest …”

Translated from the French by MAN

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki: “I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself and I regret that.”

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki in the Danish Jyllands-Posten online by Thomas Møller Kristensen

Manners: Piotr Wozniacki is the man behind Denmark’s first world tennis star. In this retrospective he’s annoyed about always having hunted progress, but most of all he’s grateful that his daughter has become a good person despite the pressure and criticism.

WIMBLEDON – The smile. There really are so many kinds. Some create happiness, others anger, some reach as high as the eyes, others need time in front of the mirror to master. Then there’s the special kind that’s reserved for that special person.

Like the smile a father has thinking about his daughter.

That was the sort of smile Piotr Wozniacki was wearing a little over a week before Wimbledon.

He’d just been with the stringer, one of Caroline Wozniacki’s racquets needed tightening and she quickly ripped the packaging off when he returned.

After smacking it a couple of times with the palm of her hand she looked questioningly at her father: it didn’t feel right, it felt strange, and it ended with a bit of an argument about how tight the stringing should be.

No one would give in, and numbers flew around the room, there was head shaking and arguing back and forth before Caroline Wozniacki exclaimed, “yeah yeah”, turned around and left.

One had the feeling the discussion was far from over, but she’d been training hard, it was time to eat, and the discussion would have to be continued later.

And that’s why Piotr Wozniacki sat there with that smile.

Daddy’s girl, an independent person, own opinions and the guts to deliver them.

“Girl” is perhaps the wrong word.

Caroline Wozniacki is approaching 25 and her 10th anniversary as a professional, and that’s why Piotr Wozniacki has agreed to an interview. He admits that the anniversary is a good reason for a retrospective, but he punctures the premise immediately.

For him it hasn’t been 10 years, it’s been a lifetime project.

Caroline Wozniacki was interviewed for the first time as an eight-year-old, when she spoke about her dream of being the world’s best and winning a Slam. She travelled to Japan, Australia, indeed the whole world as a new teenager. In the family’s and Caroline Wozniacki’s own mind she’d become a professional long before 2005.

“Maybe people mostly notice the strawberries on top of the cake, but we’ve spent many years making the cake itself,” is how Piotr Wozniacki put it.

A half hour soliloquy

He didn’t get up and leave the table after making the statement; he wanted to talk. He had to get things out, emphasise points. Actually, he had so much on his mind that the interview became almost one-way communication.

Asking the question about what he was most proud of about Caroline, not as a player but as a person, pushed a button somewhere.

32 minutes and 18 seconds later he put so many headlines into the Dictaphone that there hadn’t been room for a single follow-up question. The words poured out of him, one word lead to another, and all the titles and the money and the experiences weren’t what were mentioned the most.

His soliloquy was more about the personal, of his concerns about having followed and pushed his daughter so focussed in one direction.

It was about regrets about not having allowed himself to enjoy all the big moments and of the joy of seeing her grow into a woman of substance and energy and not the least humanity in a world lacking the same.

That doesn’t mean that Piotr Wozniacki is a softy.

He’s been extremely focussed on pushing obstacles out of the way and helping his daughter, but there have been many practical situations that required alternative solutions.

A very young interpreter

He came to Denmark from Poland, from the Eastern Bloc, where he didn’t learn English, only Polish and Russian. Not very useful when they started travelling outside the country, so it was 11-12-year-old Caroline who used her school English to book hotels, order food in restaurants and contact tournament leaders.

“Just think about it. Such a little girl together with adults who are talking business and management. She had to translate everything for me because I was hopeless at communicating. There were sometimes serious negotiations or other things, so it was important that she did it well, because I needed to go on and do the right things with a contract or some such,” declares Piotr Wozniacki.

“She enjoyed it and felt very grown up, but I was nervous that I was stealing her childhood, that she would grow up too quickly. I spoke with Anna (Caroline’s mother) and friends about it. I knew nothing about pedagogy and child psychology. I’d only been to a sports university so I had to research all the information because I didn’t want to hurt her. I worried a lot about that, and I’m proud about how well it went and relieved that she wasn’t hurt.”

Piotr Wozniacki has seldom shown this sensitive side.

He was quickly branded as something of an eccentric from the East, obviously obsessed with living his sports ambitions through his daughter because it was impossible that she could have those sorts of thoughts at such a young age.

The sport of tennis has seen too many of those kinds of family tragedies, and Piotr Wozniacki still feels personally insulted by the stories and the accusations. The repeated attacks brought the family and their near friends closer together and they used the “us against the world” feeling as fuel and gathered the necessary economic backing to realise the visions.

The suspicions about his motives have disappeared, but Piotr Wozniacki is still tired of seeing his daughter’s achievements demeaned. Technically, Caroline Wozniacki still isn’t over the finish line because she still needs to win that Slam title and that’s constantly mentioned at least four times a year in connexion with the Australian, French, US Opens and Wimbledon.

A little perspective

Piotr Wozniacki is ready for constructive criticism, but some retired Danish tennis players have raised his hackles.

“Yeah, they’ve been on the tour once, but how much have they won? How high have they got in the rankings? They’re two different worlds, and they still come with their condescending talk. She was a young girl when she heard it for the first time. She’s put in a huge effort, travelled the world and she’s proud of her results, and then she reads, yeah, yeah, she only won because Serena wasn’t there, or it was a small $100,000 tournament, but is that really a small amount of money?”, asks Piotr Wozniacki rhetorically.

“Sure we can talk about whether she played well and needs to work on things, but I don’t understand the other stuff. Tennis is the only sport where girls earn the same as boys, so naturally a million girls in the world want to be good at tennis. And despite that, Caroline from Denmark is one of the world’s best. It’s evil coming with the kind of crap she’s had to put up with, so I’m proud of the way she’s tackled adversity without becoming bitter. I hope one day there’s a Dane who can achieve the same things as Caroline, so people can understand how much she’s accomplished.”

At one time it appeared he’d be a father to another talent with the potential to go further.

Patrik Wozniacki, four years older than Caroline, had the same relationship with a football as she had to a tennis ball, but he never got higher than the secondary divisions.

Piotr Wozniacki has earlier regretted that he’d had to ‘choose’ between the two and back Caroline, and he’s grateful to see that his children have a fine relationship right up to today.

Patrik could have been disappointed over being number two and not breaking through, he could have not felt sorry about his little sister’s tribulations, but they worry about each other and take care of each other.

On the other hand, Piotr Wozniacki regrets that he hasn’t had the same energy.

He’s been so absorbed by the striving for achievements that he hasn’t allowed himself to stop and enjoy the feeling of a great result.

“I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself, and I regret that. We’ve won titles, had weeks as number one, so men great things I haven’t spent time enough thinking about because I’ve always thought about the next practice or the next tournament,” admits Piotr Wozniacki.

“I’ve lost happiness in a way, and it’s wrong to sit here and know that we’ve never been satisfied with a final or a semi-final even if it’s a super result.”

To explain his feelings, Piotr Wozniacki paints the picture of a dream car a man has fantasized about for several years. He can finally afford it, he’s deeply in love, but after a few months he’s no longer spending time sneaking to the window just to look at the wonder.

Happiness over the result

That’s not the way it’s going to be in the future, Piotr Wozniacki has promised himself. In the future he’ll try and find satisfaction in the moment, but he can’t go back into the past and be happy in retrospect.

“That’s why I’m just happy to look at Caroline every day and see the real thing. So I just have to accept the things I might have been able to do better or differently. I’m proud that she thinks of others. She doesn’t just take money from her account and give it to charity, she runs marathons to raise money. She uses herself,” says Piotr Wozniacki.

“She’s done a lot of things that aren’t publicised, and that’s what is most important to me. She’s been involved in hundreds of good things without shouting, “look at me, look at the good things I’m doing” to the whole world. I’m proud of that. She’s incredibly sensible, she’s a good person, she has what money can’t buy.”

Piotr Wozniacki didn’t go on any further because a dog in his pocket suddenly barked, an incoming call.

The telephone brought him out of his trance, it was time go move on, a meeting needed arranging.

And there was that little discussion about stringing to finish.