Simonne Mathieu

The women’s doubles trophy at the French Open is named for Mathieu, Coupe Simonne-Mathieu and the new 5,000 seat Roland Garros court will be named after her.
But who was Simonne Mathieu? Alongside Suzanne Lenglen and Henri Cochet she is one of France’s greatest tennis champions. But she was much more than that.

Simonne Mathieu and Suzanne Lenglen

Married at 17, her baby laid in his pram courtside when she became French junior champion in 1926. At 20, she was a mother of two kids whom she rarely saw as she travelled the world, collecting titles in Egypt, the Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland or Belgium.

She bounced back from losing six French Open singles finals (including three consecutive against the same opponent, Hilde Sperling) to finally win her home Grand Slam event at the seventh attempt, in 1938. She defeated fellow countrywoman Nelly Landry 6-0 6-3.
She even completed a rare triple that year, sweeping Roland Garros singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles. Only Suzanne Lenglen (1925 and 1926), Maureen Connolly (1954) and Margaret Court (1964) have achieved that distinction.

Simonne Mathieu, Nelly Landry, Marlene Dietrich - Roland Garros 1938

Simonne defended her title in 1939, with a straight sets victory over Jadwiga Jedrzejowska 6-3 8-6. France would have to wait until 1967 to see another French-born winner, Françoise Dürr, win the home title. [1]

She never played in Australia and only twice at the US Championships where she reached the quarterfinals in 1938. And even though she never captured the title in London, she had tremendous success at Wimbledon, with six semifinals (1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1937) and four quarterfinals (1933, 1935, 1938, 1939).

Mathieu was ranked in the world top 10 eleven times and reached rank number 3 in 1932 behind the two Helens: Wills Moody and Hull Jacobs. She was French number one from 1928 until 1940.

A resolute baseliner, she played with great steadiness and determination, quite often in long drawn-out matches. She had an outstanding forehand drive.

“There was one great drawback to Simone’s game to which she was never able to overcome – or perhaps she did not think it necessary – the absence of any sort of effective volley or smash. This shortcoming did not prevent her from winning innumerable doubles championships, but it was a tremendous handicap in singles competition against players who had the tactical sense to draw her up to the net with short, low shots and then lob deeply. To win, she relied almost entirely on baseline duels, or upon drawing the opponent up, then making the passing shot or the lob, herself” – Helen Jacobs

Despite her weakness at the net, she was a fantastic doubles player: she won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles: three women’s doubles titles at Wimbledon (1933, 1934, 1937), six women’s doubles titles (1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939) and two mixed doubles titles (1937, 1938) at Roland Garros.

Simonne Mathieu and Toto Brugnon

A fighter on the court, Mathieu has also gone down in history as a fighter off the court.
She was playing a tournament in the United States when World War II broke out in 1939 and then decided to return immediately to France. Following France’s surrender in June 1940, she joined General de Gaulle in London, and offered him her services. She set up the Corps Féminin Français, a group of women volunteers serving in the Free French Forces.

She ended the war with a grade of Captain and marched down the Champs Elysées alongside de Gaulle when Paris was liberated in August 1944. She was finally reunited with her family, and with tennis.
She served as umpire for the “liberation match” between Henri Cochet and Yvon Petra at Roland Garros on September 17 1944 wearing her uniform as an officer in the French forces.

From 1949 to 1960 she was captain of the French womens team. She died in 1980, aged 72.
She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006… the year Amélie Mauresmo won two Grand Slams.

Notes:
[1]: Nelly Landry won the title in 1948, but she was Belgian-born and became a French citizen after marriage
[2]: Read more info on The War Illustrated

Pictures:
1: Simonne Mathieu, 1926
2: Simonne Mathieu and Suzanne Lenglen, 1926
3: Picture taken before the Roland Garros 1938 singles final. From left to right: Simonne Mathieu, Nelly Landry and Marlene Dietrich.
4: Mathieu playing with Mousquetaire Toto Brugnon
5: Henri Cochet, Simonne Mathieu, Yvon Pétra

Sources:
Wikipedia, International Tennis Hall of Fame, The golden days of tennis on the French Riviera by Alan Little, Roland Garros website

Reto Schmidli

Article by l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz:

August 1991. No one suspects that a small page in the history of tennis is being written on the clay court at the Grüssenhölzli club in Pratteln, on the outskirts of Basel. This is the first round of the youth tournament of this small club. Not many people pay attention to the match between Reto Schmidli, a hope of TC Arlesheim, the neighboring village, and little Roger Federer, a kid from the TC Old Boys Basel. The match has little interest as it goes one way; Reto dismantles the kid 6-0, 6-0, double bagel.

Two things are then unknown. The first is that Roger will become one of the greatest players of his era; The second is that never again in his career he will suffer a defeat on this humiliating score. “Honestly I never thought about it,” says Reto Schmidli, 38, sitting on the terrace of a family bistro in Arlesheim. And then a friend told me that Roger had given an interview in a student magazine in the United States, where he was asked if he had already lost 6-0, 6-0. He replied that this had happened to him only once, during this tournament in Pratteln, facing me.”

But Reto Schmidli, now a police officer in Basel, never brags about it. However, the story became known in the small world of Basel tennis. “Sometimes, in tournaments, they ask me: Are you the one who beat Roger 6-0, 6-0?”

Reto does not add. “It did not mean much. Roger played his first tournaments, he was 10 years old and I was 13.” Soon, their roads diverged. “Roger joined the national center, I continued my progress but not at the same pace. Later, I joined Roger’s club, the Old Boys, and then I left to Australia, to the club of Patrick Rafter. I was in foster care, I played every day. The goal was to progress as much as to learn English. I came back to Basel, I had a good serve and a good backhand but I do not think I had the talent to become a great player. For that, it is necessary to want it ardently and it was not my case. I just enjoy playing tennis. My best ranking was Swiss number 40 … I started a sports college and then, as I was a fan of the Columbo series, I passed the exam to enter the police … I still play in my club of Arlesheim, in particular the team matches for over 35 year old.”

Reto is of course Federer’s number one fan. “I saw him once, I was at an indoor tournament where he was.” Inevitably, time covered this original match of the summer of 1991. “He had come with his mother. Of course, I did not know that I had just beat an absolute tennis genius. What I remember is that all his strokes came out. As if he already had the idea of ​​tennis that he wanted to play but did not yet have the means to realize it. His balls came out of the court and that’s why I won easily, but let’s say his game philosophy was already there.”

Reto had reached the final of the tournament. Today, the court on which they had played disappeared, replaced by a furniture store. Only remains a nice souvenir for the Basel police officer.

Photo credit: L’Equipe Magazine

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2016

Former French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on French TV last March that “it is known that the injury of Rafael Nadal, which lasted seven months, was probably because of a positive control”. Nadal filled a lawsuit against Bachelot last month. Here are a few extracts from l’Equipe Magazine’s interview in which the 9-time Roland Garros champion talks about the doping accusations.

Why he filled a lawsuit:

Someone who is supposed to be serious, responsible, can not say those things without any proof, citing someone who’s not on the tour anymore and who has been banned for life (former player Daniel Köllerer). I am not afraid, but my credibility and sport’s credibility in general are at stake. No one can say things like that without information, so the only way to stop such unfounded statements is to take legal action. I have full confidence in French justice.

His reaction to Bachelot’s accusations:

I am serene. What she said can not hurt me because I know all the work I’ve done to be where I am today. On the contrary, for the people who know nothing about that and hear Bachelot’s accusations, it’s shocking. It damages the image of my sport, my image, and I can no longer tolerate it. I worked so hard throughout my career, always ensuring respect for my true values, applying to give everything every day.

On doubts about his physical playing style:

Maybe my way of playing encourages ill-intentioned people to think certain things. It’s unfair and it’s a lack of respect for my daily work. Some players hit harder than me, others are stronger physically, others even mentally. You need to have all those qualities to be the best. But I’d never put in doubts anyone.

About French players’ support:

I go very well with all the French players and I was heartened by their support. We are together on the tour, we see each other in the locker rooms everyday and we know each other well. I appreciated.

About his confidence in the anti-doping system:

I believe in my opponents. I am sure players I face are clean. Simply because I believe in the anti-doping system.

On his request to the ITF to publish all his drug-test results:

We’re in the middle of a lawsuit and my lawyers intend to use the results for my defence. They advised me to wait until the end of the lawsuit before publishing them. Once the legal procedure is behind me, I will share them. AnNd I’m sure that in a near future that’s something that will happen all the time. It would be a great way to show that our sport is clean. Today, it’s essential for its image that we are as transparent as possible.

On whether there are enough doping tests:

I can not say if there are enough tests or not. What matters is that everything has to be made public.

Interview by Georges Homsi for l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz. Photo credit: Tennis Buzz.

Andy Murray and Amélie Mauresmo

Andy Murray announced his ‘mutually agreed’ split from coach Amélie Mauresmo earlier this month. In an interview with l’Equipe Magazine, Mauresmo explains the reasons behind the end of their partnership. She also talks about the Fed Cup, and various things she already discussed in previous interviews like her view on Grand Slams format and lack of winning culture in France.
Here are a few extracts (interview by Romain Lefebvre and Franck Ramella, translation by Tennis Buzz):

Q: We would like to know more about your split with Andy Murray

I had the feeling we had felt the end of road professionally. It was concluded that it would be difficult to continue. I reduced a bit my number of weeks of presence since the Australian Open and we spent little time together. It happened to be a difficult period for him and I couldn’t help him. But this decision (to end the partnership) was initiated some time ago.

Q: For what reasons?

I don’t want to go into details. Everybody could see some things.

Q: In particular you no longer sat in Murray’s box in Miami?

I no longer wished to be there. I wanted to try something else.

Q: Because of his behaviour on court?

Andy is complex. On a court he can be the complete opposite of what he is in life. It can be confusing. I was there to help him. I had the feeling we could not make progress anymore.

Q: What is your assessment of this experience?

It was a beautiful adventure. It broke down barriers in mens’ tennis. I was proud to be a pioneer. And it worked, thanks to respect and communication. I have good memories of his success on clay last year (titles in Munich and Madrid) while he had never won a title on this surface. I liked the way Andy works, I enjoyed working with his team. Andy has great listening and analysis capacities. He is curious, always looking. And that’s what makes great champions. It was a great challenge in which I put myself in danger. I accepted the job because I knew I could bring him most of the things he wanted. He had difficulties to communicate. He wanted someone able to listen to him. He also wanted to play more aggressively, near the baseline. He thought he could open up a bit more with a woman. Back then, he didn’t want to play anymore.

Photo credit: Tennis Buzz, Andy Murray practicing with Thanasi Kokkinakis, Roland Garros 2015

Adriano Panatta

Extract from Hard Courts: Real Life on the Professional Tennis Tours by John Feinstein

For years the Italian was considered the most corrupt tournament in the game. Line judges routinely cheated foreigners who were facing Italians. When Adriano Panatta won the tournament in 1976, almost every player he beat felt he had been cheated. One umpire quit in the middle of the match, when he was not allowed by the tournament referee to overrule several horrendous calls. (It was in fact in 1978, read the all story here: Italian Open 1978: silenzio cretini! )

One story Italians tell holds that in the early 1980s, when Panatta, the god of Italian tennis, was beginning to slide, he would sit in on the draw – then done in private – to make sure he drew a first-round opponent he could beat.

The story goes that one year, Panatta rejected three different names that were pulled out for him, the last being Ismael El-Shafei, an Egyptian who won a few matches on tour during his career. On the fourth try, El-Shafei’s name came out again. Okay, Panatta said, I’ll play El-Shafei. He did – and lost.