“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.

“Obama plays pretty decent tennis.” Part 2 – Caroline Wozniacki on football, Marathons, swimsuits and friendships on tour

Part two of the Spox interview by Florian Regelmann

You grew up in a sports mad family – your father was a footballer and, as everyone knows, he’s your coach. Your brother Patrick was also an active football professional. You’re a big Liverpool fan. Why the Reds?

-My brother was a big Man U fan when I was little. I wanted absolutely to be different from him, so I chose Liverpool. Later I played an exhibition match in Liverpool and got the chance to go to the stadium and learn about the history of the club. When you go to Anfield Road and get goosebumps from “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, you have to become a Reds fan. Some Danes have played for the team over the years. My favourite player is of course Stevie Gerrard, and I proudly wear his jersey from his last home game. But I also like a couple of your German players like Bastian Schweinsteiger. I like saying the name – Schweinsteiger (laughs).

You don’t only follow football closely. You also ran the New York Marathon last year, and in a very good time of 3.27. Respect! But your preparation wasn’t ideal …

(laughs) That’s true. A couple of days before I was up until 4 AM at a Halloween party.I ran the Marathon because it had been on my bucket list for a long time. It was a crazy experience that I’ll never forget. Looking back at it, while it was definitely a tough test both physically and mentally, it was an amazing atmosphere. It’s a pretty amazing feeling with the crowds on the roadside shouting your name.I said right after it that I’d never do it again because I was finished. But I’ve slowly been changing my mind and maybe I’ll do it again. (laughs)

The Marathon wasn’t your only off-court experience.Another thing you did was pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. How did that come about?

I always wanted to do the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. It was always a dream of mine. Very few get the chance, so I was really happy when I got the call and the chance. I’ve done photo shoots before, but this was something special because of the prestige. It was a really big thing for me. I enjoyed the shoot and the time with the team a lot.

Are these opportunities, along with the career results, one of the big advantages of being a star?

Oh yes. The best part of life as a tennis player is the competition because I love it so much, measuring yourself against the other girls and and fighting against them. But off the court you get the chance to do amazing things, to travel the world and meet very interesting and cool personalities. Because of that you can overlook the few downsides there to the travelling circus.

You mentioned interesting personalities.  For example, you met President Obama. Is he a tennis talent?

I played a bit against him, and he’s a pretty decent tennis player. I also found out that he used to play regularly. Being invited to the White House was a great honour. If I hadn’t been a tennis player, I’d never have experienced it.

But there are also negative sides to the business. Everyone knew about your engagement to Rory McIlroy and that you were about to get married, everyone knew when the relationship broke up, and now they’re guessing about a new relationship. How do you deal with the fact that everything happens in public?

Frankly I try not to read anything about myself. I know what I do and what the truth is. I have no influence on the rest. The can write what they want. Let them have their opinions. You just have to accept that’s the way it is and not bother about it.

But it’s never that easy. When you congratulated Jordan Spieth for his outstanding Masters win, it was interpreted as a dig at your ex Rory.

Just because I congratulate another golfer, people think there’s some kind of hidden message for God’s sake, when there isn’t at all. I often congratulate other athletes for their successes. Jordan Spieth accomplished something unbelievable and I congratulated him for it. That’s it. The time after the separation wasn’t easy for me, but I learned a lot about myself and I definitely became an adult. I’m convinced everything happens in life for a reason. I’m a stronger person now because of it.

Serena Williams stood by you as a friend the whole time. What does her friendship consist of?

Serena is simply a great woman. When we’re together, we have a great time. We laugh together and have a lot of fun, but we also talk honestly about everything. Serena is a wonderful friend  who’s always there when you need her.

Unfortunately she’s not such a good friend on court and and she’s beaten you practically every time. Your record is 10-1 …

But we’ve had a lot of close matches. But it’s true, she as good as always come out on top in the end. It’s not a coincidence that she’s number one, has won so many Slams and is one of the greatest players of all time. I’ve never played against Steffi Graf, but for my generation she’s definitely the greatest. I have great respect for her, but every time we play against each other, I want to win. I’ll try again next time.

Close friendships are not very common especially in women’s tennis. Maria Sharapova has said that she can’t be friends with a player, eat dinner with her, and then go on court the next day and beat her. Is that the same for you?

I’m a very open person with people and I like to keep things going and have a good time.Tennis can be pretty lonely if you don’t have friends on the tour. There are a few girls I have a very close contact with off the court. While you’re playing a match, of course there’s no friendship. But you can separate the two no problem.

You likely have many more years left on the tour, but how do you see your life in ten years?

I hope people remember me and my tennis with fondness – that would be great. Otherwise when I’m no longer active I hope to have a nice husband and two kids, be a good mom to them, and live a normal, quiet family life.

Translate by MAN

18-year old Québecker Françoise Abanda is unhappy with the start of her 2015 season

Translation of this online piece from Le Journal de Montréal April 16 2015

The Québecker Françoise Abanda, only 18, is probably her own worst critic.

‘In the last six months, I haven’t met my own expectations when it comes to my goals, my objectives,’ she affirms after a practice session up to the Fed Cup meeting in Montréal April 18-19. ‘There have been some matches I should have won. I’m thinking about my ranking too, I can better it.’

Abanda is at 260 in the WTA world rankings.

But she’s been ranked as high as 175 last autumn, which allowed her to take part in Slam qualies.

Abanda works hard to climb the rankings. She knows she especially needs to improve her serve, especially her second shot. On the other side of the court, the Québecker is still trying to adjust to the powerful serves of certain of her opponents.

‘I’ve played against players with the hardest serves like Sabine Lisicki [at the 2014 US Open, lost 6-3, 7-5] and Venus Williams [in Québec City] and it’s quick, not at all like the serves I’m used to in juniors. It’s like a weapon for them. You’re certain to start the point badly when your opponent puts you in difficulty.’

Abanda isn’t necessarily surprised by the strength of her opponents, she simply has to go through a period of adjustment.

‘When you’re going to play Venus, you know you’re going to receive bombs,’ she indicated. ‘I expected it, but it’s just that it’s tough receiving. The ball gets to you quickly and there’s not much reaction time.’

Become a model

Despite everything, Abanda did well in Québec against Venus Williams, losing in two sets 7-5, 6-3 last September.

The start of 2015 has been more difficult.

‘I haven’t won a lot of matches, but I’ve gained a lot of experience,’ noted Abanda, who would have liked to have beaten Shahar Peer during the Australian Open Qualies.

The young Québecker is visibly impatient for the experience to translate into important wins.

‘I play tennis to leave my mark, to help and be a positive influence on young people,’ she continued. ‘If I have the ability to do that, that’s my goal. If I can get recognised and become a role model, that would be mission accomplished.’

To achieve her noble ambitions, Abanda needs to climb in the world hierarchy. Having blown out her 18 candles in February, she still has a few years to get there.

Translated by MAN

“France, the country that welcomed me so well”: Interview with Novak Djoković

An interview by Carole Bouchard published in Le Parisien magazine.

A declaration of love.  While he doesn’t launch his clay campaign until April 11 in Monte-Carlo, Novak Djoković agreed to be interviewed a few weeks ago about the privileged relationship he’s had with France since his youth. The world number one, who didn’t want to risk answering our questions in French, but does so willingly for short periods on TV, has the goal of winning Roland Garros on June 7—the only Grand Slam tournament missing from his record.

What are your first memories of France?

Before even setting foot in your country, I had a positive image of France.  There’s a long tradition of friendship between our countriesmany French live in Serbia and many Serbs speak French.  Me, too, although I’m still working on improving it.  When I came for the first time, at 11 years old, to play the Tarbes International, I loved your country as well as the people.  And then I played my first Roland Garros at 16 as a junior.

What impressed you then?

As a Serb, after the war in Yugoslavia, it wasn’t easy to travel.  When we gave our nationality, people recoiled and looked at us oddly.  They thought we were terrorists who were going to play some dirty trick.  It was very complicated for my family and me, especially for my father, who travelled with me to junior tournaments.  We had to work twice as hard to impress people.  But France was one of the few countries where we felt welcomed and where there really was some human warmth, some friendship.

What were your first visits as a tourist?

In juniors, we often travelled by train and passed through Paris, where the train stopped at Lyon Station.  So, we’d do a tour of the neighbourhood.  That’s where I saw the Bercy complex for the first time.  When you’re a player, you spend days on the courts and you don’t do a lot of tourism because it takes time and energy.  I needed four or five years before I went to see the Eiffel Tower!  The same for the Louvre Museum.  Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the worldevery building has a soul, a special architecture and a history.  I myself come from a country filled with history, which cultivates its traditions and cultural heritage, and have much respect for those which do the same.  I enjoy those countries more because I feel this soul, this ancient history.

What are your favourite parts of Paris?

The Bois de Boulogne, Parc Monceau, the nice neighbourhoods around Avenue George V and the Champs Elysées … And then there’s Montmartre, magnificent with its artistic side.  The Louvre is impressive, too.  There are also restaurants I visit regularly, like the world-famous Le Relais de l’Entrecôte!

Have you developed a particular relationship with France?

I feel closer and closer to French culture.  Speaking the language helps, as does living in Monaco.  I meet French people every day.  And I have French sponsors like Peugeot and Nutrition & Health (Gerblé), who chose me because I can identify with French culture.  I like your sense of humour which is quite sarcastic and distinctive.  It makes me laugh.  I’ve also noticed that people in France are very confident, especially in Paris.  I find it interesting to meet people who have that joie de vivre, that desire to succeed and that influence.

You had a son, Stefan, in 2014. They say he was born in Nice…

No, he was born in Monaco.

A trifle, he couldn’t play for France!

[Explodes into laughter.] OK, well, I don’t know how that would work, I haven’t checked it out!  Will he play tennis later?  That’s impossible to predict.  When he learns to walk, there’ll come a moment when he’ll grab a racquet and ball, it’s only natural.  As soon as he learns to talk, people will ask him if he wants to play, be better than his father.  But I don’t want to force him to become a professional tennis player.  Children of champions who don’t succeed in the same sport as their parents are more numerous than those who succeed because there’s so much pressure.  I’ll tell my son what he can expect so he’ll be ready.

You’ve played legendary matches at Roland Garros, like the semi-final you lost to Rafael Nadal in 2013. But the title keeps eluding you…

It’s a tournament I dream of winning.  The matches I lost at Roland Garros against Nadal were really not easy to digest.  But I take that as an apprenticeship: it’s a challenge that allows me to grow and improve.  That will be my state of mind for the 2015 edition [May 19-June 7- ED], which I can’t wait to play.  I think it will go well for me there, even if it’s a ways down the road and, psychologically, I don’t want to think about it yet.  Roland Garros is always at the top of my priorities.

Because the crowd supports you?

Last year, after my loss in the final, I had one of the most touching moments of my career when the whole stadium applauded me for a long time.  I had tears in my eyes because the French crowd isn’t easy to win over.  To enjoy this support when I’m not French is something I’ll never forget and it encourages me.  What’s important is what you feel—and, in Paris, I feel good, appreciated, carried along by a positive energy.  When I feel that good, I play my best tennis.

Translated 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

17-year-old Emilie Francati is Denmark’s biggest young tennis talent

Article in the Danish BT by Jeppe Melchior Mikkelsen and Esben Drachmann Rasmussen

Emilie Francati. Remember the name. Because she just might be the girl Danes look to in the future on the women’s tennis tour. At the moment she’s in a good position at 79 in the ITF junior rankings to get direct entry into the main draw at the four Junior Grand Slams.

She’s already played the first a month ago one when she played “Down Under” at the Australian Open. Unfortunately, she went out in the first round of the singles competition when she lost in a third set tie breaker. She had to focus instead on the doubles, and she and her British partner Emily Arbuthnott reached the semi-finals. That made her hungry for more.

“It was fantastic! It was huge fun to experience the atmosphere when you reach the semi-final and final days. The crowd isn’t spread out among twenty courts. They’re all gathered around your court, so you need to get used to that, of course. And there are all sorts of emotions and nerves involved which you’ve never had to deal with before. Unfortunately I didn’t handle them well for myself on the day, but I hope I’ll do better next time,” says Emilie Francati.

Busy day

Emilie Francati, who has Italian roots, comes from a family of tennis players, and her father runs the Gentofte Tennis Club, where she trains for four hours every day, and that’s besides the strength training she also does.

The many training hours also mean that there isn’t time for a normal education. So while other young people go to upper secondary school or business college, Emily studies individual subjects over the internet. She also makes compromises about her social life when she spends most of the time travelling around the world playing tennis.

“It was hard at the start. Travelling around the world like that is very lonely. Luckily there are other Danes along some of the time, but it’s lonely sitting alone in a hotel room day in and day out. But of course you get to know others from other countries, so there’s some socialising, but obviously I don’t have a class here at home with 28 upper secondary school classmates.”

Even if Emelie’s live is different from other 17-year-olds who use the weekends to party and get drunk, it’s a price she’s more than willing to pay.

“I’m not a big party animal,” says Emilie with a smile. She explains further: “Not because I don’t want to, but it’s difficult to find time for it. It’s not like I can’t have a fun evening when I’m here at home, but when you’re travelling it’s not like you run around and find the nearest bar. It’s not as if I feel I’m missing anything. Sometimes you get a bit annoyed at saying no to various birthdays and parties, but I’d rather have what I have,” she says firmly.

With her 183 centimetres Emilie is well above average in height, and it’s tempting to compare her to the Russian Maria Sharapova. But while Sharapova won her first senior Grand Slam at 17, Emilie is still on the junior tour. It was a conscious choice on her part to wait before moving up to the seniors. as she wants to wait until she has a backpack filled with memories and experiences before trying new challenges.

“I’d like to experience playing the four Grand Slam tournaments, and it would be a bit precocious to say I only want to do that as a senior. And I’m really happy I made that choice. I’ve had some unforgettable experiences. Being in Australia and walking around with people like Federer and Nadal whom you’ve only seen on TV and looked up to a large part of your life gives me a lot of motivation.”

But Emilie wants to get even closer to the big stars. She wants to play against them – that’s her ambition for the future.

“My goal is to turn professional and continue playing full time and travel around. I hope I can get good enough to play senior Grand Slams and be up there among the really good. There’s a way to go yet, but I’m definitely giving it a shot.”

As the country’s biggest upcoming talent, it’s impossible to avoid the label of “The New Wozniacki”. But the young tennis talent takes it quite calmly.

“I have nothing against it because I have great respect for everything Caroline’s doing and has done in her career. And yes, it would be cool to be the new Wozniacki, but I’d rather be a Francati!”

Up next for Emilie Francati are two clay tournaments in Brazil at the beginning of March. Even though her favourite surface is hard court, it’s time to get used to clay so she can check off the French Open in May – the only junior Grand Slam she has yet to play.

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Translated by Mark Nixon