Interview by Vincent Cognet for l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:

Q: Are you interested in this controversy over equal prize money in tennis or does it bother you?

It annoys me, for sure! I see no reason to change that. What bothers me is the cyclical side of this controversy. Beside that, there are some valid points. The men’s tour is actually more attractive than the women’s tour. There is no debate: probably three of the six greatest players in history are playing at the same time. The women’s tour has seen a period like this, ten years ago. What I don’t understand is that money earned by women is not earned to the detriment of men… So where’s the problem? Obviously, Roger, Rafa and Novak are carrying all of tennis, including women’s tennis that is not at that level. But why shouldn’t everyone profit from it? I find this discussion very sterile.

Q: But you understand the players’ position …

If we speak of the Grand Slams, it is understandable. They play best of five, it’s not the same format … Valid argument. I understand it well because I am rather favorable that women play best of five sets in the final rounds. Ot that men play best of three in the early rounds of the tournament. There aren’t many balanced matches in the first week. At the same time, adding a third set for the women could make the semis or finals more interesting.

Q: Do you think this debate exhales reeks of machismo or sexism?

Society as a whole is still and always sexist. We have the chance to play in a sport where equality is defended. We even may be trailblazers. And I’m happy about it.

Q: Have you talked about it with Andy (Murray)?

Obviously. Given the context, it was obvious. (She smiles.) I knew very well what he was going to say to journalists. We’d talked about it before. I asked him his opinion before his press conference and we discussed. I did not dictate him anything. He has very strong opinions about it. And above all, he has very interesting arguments. He has a very broad, very Anglo-Saxon vision of things. For him a woman ranked 100th in the world must have the same opportunities as a man ranked 100th. His view is: why should a man ranked 7Oth in the world earn more than Serena, just because he has a pair of balls and is born in the same era as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, even though he doesn’t sell a single ticket? The debate isn’t about whether the men’s tour is more attractive. It’s about equal opportunities. And Andy has understood this perfectly.

Q: Problems within the French Tennis Federation, suspicions of match-fixing, Maria Sharapova failed drug test, the debate on equal prize money: is tennis suffering?

Yes. The image conveyed is terrible. It saddens me deeply. I find it pitiful. We are talking constantly about all these cases. We never talk about performance, values, commitment, sweat, transcendence. Yet this generation is exceptional. But it’s clear that tennis is taking a hit right now. Betting fixes, doping … There’s only one thing to do: keep fighting and cleaning up.

Q: Will we have again a golden era for women’s tennis (2000-2005)?

Hard to answer … Will Bouchard replace Sharapova? Impossible to know it. Two things characterized our time. First, the density of champions. We had, at the same time, Williams, Henin, Clijsters, Sharapova, Davenport, Capriati, me, etc. It was just huge. Then, very different personalities, stories and charisms. Today, do we have both? Among the twenty-two, twenty-three years old, we have Bouchard, Keys, Muguruza … and “Caro” (Garcia) and “Kiki” (Mladenovic) in France. Do they have charisma? It’s hard to say. They would have to show it very quickly, in any case. But the problem is that it is hard to exist when you rub shoulders with Williams and Sharapova. Often,
people reveal themselves when they get rid of strong personalities that surround them and maybe stifle them.
It will be easier for young players to win, but also to position themselves, to open up, unfold and be assertive.

Q: It is important?

Essential. It’s sport after all! Values in sport are keys. What happens with Sharapova’s positive test is terrible. A champion like her involved in a doping story, it’s horrible for the image of tennis.
You have to try to be impeccable. The road is not always linear but you can also get better with time. Serena did it for example. She better takes the full measure of her role and responsibilities now than ten years ago. Young players don’t realize that. At least not yet.

Q: Are we right to worry about the women’s tour, post-Williams and post-Sharapova?

In the same way we can worry for men’s tennis! What about after-Federer, Nadal and Djokovic? These guys are legends. And it’s hard to replace legends. In fact, today, I put both circuits in the same basket.
Men’s tennis is not safe from falling out or disinterest. For now, the Kyrgios, Zverev, Coric don’t exist. There is a world between them and the “Big Four”. But this can change.

Q: Are the ATP and the WTA as consistent one than the other?

The only thing I can say, is that ATP seems much more pro-active. But the era is favourable for them. When was the WTA stronger? In my time, because there was a bunch of champions. Today, the WTA is more of a follower.

Q: Is it not also too protective? When the Sharapova case happened, the WTA gave prepared replies to all players!

I saw that. I’ll tell you something: to varying degrees, it has always existed. They are afraid. But honestly, I think the players say what they want. I think they should not do it but in my opinion, it changes nothing. I don’t have the image of girls standing to attention.

Q: In addition, it would go against what they are looking for: the expression and the development of personality…

Exact. Instead, explaining the situation to a player before a press conference can only be a plus. There, the WTA has a role to play. But they can say to a player: “It would be good to say that,” I am pretty sure it has no impact.

Q: Would you be interested in taking part to participate to a working group about the future and promotion of women’s circuit?

I should be… but no! (She bursts laughing.) I prefer to be on the court. I hope to contribute but in another way. By being Fed Cup captain in particular. I like to see this team leads people behind it. But to sit around a table meeting after meeting, is not my thing. I’m more into action. Providing direction, inculcating values, imposing respect … that’s what drives me.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Thanks to Gary, some beautiful photos from players, officials and crowds at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Main Stadium, Indian Wells

Working Alone

Camera Men 1
Read More

Agnieszka Radwanska, Indian Wells 2016

Agnieszka Radwanska saved a match point in her second round match against Dominika Cibulkova, but then registered straight sets wins over Niculescu and Jankovic to reach the last eight. With her 6-2 7-6 win over Petra Kvitova, Radwanska is back to world number 2 ranking. Her opponent in the semifinal: Serena Williams.
As for Kvitova, as often, she’s neither fully mentally nor physically at her best.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova
Read More

Julia Goerges

Thanks to Tony for sharing his experience:

I enjoyed meeting German tennis star Julia Goerges at the 1st Anniversary celebration for Bank of the West in Indian Wells, CA. She was an absolute pleasure, signing autographs and taking photos with everyone before it was back to training at the BNP Paribas Open. I’m definitely on ‪#‎TeamJule‬ now!

Julia Goerges

Julia Goerges

Julia Goerges

Christina McHale, Indian Wells 2016

How frustrating it must be to be a Muguruza fan: she has all the weapons in her game but is so inconsistent. She lost to Christina McHale 5-7 1-6 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Christina McHale

 
Read More

Amélie Mauresmo and Justine Henin, Australian Open 2006

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:

Yesterday Amélie Mauresmo was the biggest fan of her protege, Andy Murray, but ten years ago she captured her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne. Flashback.

Q: Do yo remember exactly your route to victory here in 2006?

Ouch! (Thinking…) I start with the Chinese Sun. Right? Then Emilie (Loit), and Krajicek who retires. And in the fourth round, who was it? That’s right, Vaidisova! And then I defeat Patty (Schnyder) in the quarterfinals, Kim (Clijsters) in semis and Justine (Henin) in the final.

Q: Do you remember the score of the shortened final?

6-1 2-0 30-0.

Q: After the final, everybody critizices Henin’s attitude. Mats Wilander says “Even crawling she should have finished the match”. But you don’t say anything.

I only do realize that the next day. And suddenly I feel bad. And I say to myself: “But wait, she did that! She only had 3 or 4 more games to play. And she stopped.” Yet she was not dying. You can not do that.

Q: Have you forgiven her?

It took time. When I was still playing, not really. She stole me a moment. And moments like that are rare.

Q: Did she apologize?

No.

Q: Your coach Loic Courteau was annoyed because all the emotion could not get out. And you?

Yes, of course, but I was so sure this tournament was for me. Withdrawal or not, in my opinion I was better.

Q: Did you have the same feeling, six months later in Wimbledon, that the tournament was for you?

Not at all. I was not playing as well at Wimbledon. The final was not good. In Melbourne, before the final, I had no doubt, no stress. Unlike the Wimbledon final, where I hardly slept the night before.

Q: From when did you feel that superiority in Melbourne?

Not immediately. But after my win against Vaidisova and my big match against Patty. Against her, even I won often, it was always tough. But that time, I did dominate her physically and tactically.

Q: Would you have won the tournament if you had not win the Masters in 2015?

It’s related. The Masters are a real trigger. I experienced these Masters a bit like my first Grand Slam. I surfed on that confidence. The winter that following, during preparation, I played like crazy. The practice sessions (lots of them with Alexandre Sidorenko who won the boys’ title the same day as Mauresmo) were amazing.

Q: Yet a few weeks before the Masters, you had reached a low point.

The match agasint Mary Pierce at the US Open had killed me (a 6-4 6-1 loss in the quarterfinals). After the match, I thought “I can’t do it against hard-hitting players. I don’t return as well as these players. I can’t do it.” Mary, Davenport, Venus, Serena, it was going too fast for me. Even Justine who could do more things chose that playing style. Was there some place for me? For change of pace, variation? I asked myself a lot of questions. We thought about it with Lolo (Courteau) and we decided to go to the net even more. But I play two disastrous tournaments, Moscow and Zurich. I win one or two games a set (she loses 6-1 6-1 to Schiavone in Moscow and 6-2 6-0 to Srebotnik in Zurich). I keep questioning myself: I’m 26 and except Novotna, there is no female player winning a first Grand Slam title at that age.

Q: You do not have always known you were a champion

That’s right. I fought against a lot of things related to our sporting culture in France, to our approach to winning or rather our non-approach.

Q: Also fight the “She has a nice game” cliché

Technically, my forehand was not really good, but people said: “She has a nice backhand, she varies her shots, she volleyes”. Efficiency is not a priority in France. I can feel the difference with Andy (Murray) and even before when I worked with Azarenka.

Q: By winning in Melbourne you also get rid of another weight, that of being labeled as the world number one who had not won a Grand Slam. Was it important?

I was eager to put an end to this discussion. But it was not a suffering.

Q: At the 2006 Australian Open, three players retire against you, but you also had big problems..

The morning of my match against Vaidisova, I wake up and I’m panicked. My neck is blocked, I’m upset. I call Michel (Franco, her physiotherapist), he massages me, he does what he can. I play suffering, serving at 130 km/h, but Vaidisova commits lots of unforced errors. That year it is very hot. In the semi finals, with Kim, we play a big match, very physical. We play indoor because it is 40 °C. She twists her ankle because she is tired; back to the hotel, I fainted. The next day I did not come to hit at the stadium.

Q: In 1999, you had also reached the final in Melbourne..

Yes, but in the game, I do not really know why. My game was very instinctive. I do not even know how I was playing back then. In 2006 my game was in place.

Q: You keep good memories of the Château d’Yquem 1937 you drank to celebrate your victory

In fact we drunk it during the summer of 2007. It was excellent.