Interview by El Espanol, translation by Tennis Buzz
Within a year, you took Milos Raonic to his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, in addition to helping him climb from world number 14 to number 3. Why split?
One of the reasons is that I traveled too many weeks with Raonic in 2016, way more than I thought. I did about 18 weeks, many, many. In addition, I played several Champions Tour tournaments (the retired players’ circuit) and the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League). And it was a bit complicated for me. I traveled too much considering my family situation, being married with three children.
How did the opportunity to train Nadal appear?
Toni Nadal called me when I was playing IPTL. He knew that I was no longer with Raonic and asked me if I wanted to be part of the team and also of the academy. I said that in principle yes, but I needed to talk to Rafa. I wanted to know his level of involvement first. I could imagine it, but I needed to hear it from his own voice. I needed to know if he was willing to do everything to win back Grand Slam tournaments, to become world number one again … And yes, he did have a lot of predisposition, hunger and hope. For me, that was fundamental.
Did you really think you would not end up sitting in his box? I do not believe it…
No, it’s the absolute truth. It was always clear to me that he would end his career with Toni and Francis Roig, I never thought I would take the plunge. In any case, I am a person who comes from outside, but I am the least external that Nadal could have found. I think that has been something decisive. Rafa does not like changes, either in his life or in his environment. That’s why he accepts someone who knows that environment even before he works with him. Toni, Joan Forcades (physical trainer), Benito (head of press) …
Although I am still an outsider who sees different things, someone who he has trusted in the past as a friend. And I think the year I’ve done with Milos helps that, to take the plunge. Previously, Rafa could think that I did not want to travel. I think, but I don’t for sure, to see that I have traveled with Milos and that he has done well, it reassured him.
You have been a close friend of Nadal for a long time. Have you ever coach him without being his coach?
Never. Obviously we have talked about tennis, but I never stepped on that ground. It was a way for me to respect his team. If he had asked me something I may have said it, but I have not called Rafa to tell him to play a rival in a way or to train something in particular. That was not my place. I did not do it during the years I was alone, nor when I was with Raonic, logically. But of course we were in contact. He is my friend. I have a lot of affection and I want the best for him.
You come from helping to grow a player who has a huge margin of improvement. And now?
The focus is different, it has nothing to do. Raonic has not reached his limit, he has not reached his full potential. And Nadal is the other way around. He has come fully, but he wants to get closer to that higher level. One has not won anything big and the other has 14 Grand Slam tournaments. One has two years in the elite and the other more than 15. It has nothing to do, although the requirement will be the same.
If you miss Grand Slam finals you will see that you are still struggling for those titles. If during the next big eight does not pass eighth … because logically is not going to be good, will not enjoy. Sincerely, I see Nadal to fight for the maximum.
Won’t you have problems with all the travels?
I will do between 12 and 15 weeks this season. Rafa knows my family situation and respects it. And he wants me to be in his day to day and that I am part of the academy, which is a very important project for him. In the end, one of the keys is that I am in Mallorca and that will make it easier for us to be together.
Why has Nadal stopped winning?
2015 and 2016 are very different. In 2015, Rafa recognized that it was a mental problem, of pressure, of anxiety. In 2016, those problems were overcome and when he was at his best he was injured. After the injury he hurried up to play the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but when I asked him about it he told me he would do the same because he won the gold medal.
He came back with pains, doubts, matches he had to win and he lost them … all that took his confidence away. He finished the year a little burned out because he could not have continuity due to those injuries. They are two different cases, although I prefer 2016. What happened last season is different and very surmountable, as long as he is not injured.
During this time, has he lost more edge in his forehand or his backhand?
The backhand can keep you in the game, but what will make you win a Grand Slam is to do the difference with the forehand. He has to recover the pace that he had, with which he suffocated the opponent.
And the physic condition?
He is not failing physically. Those who are playing the best tennis on the tour are older. Murray is being number one for the first time at age 29.
But he runs less than before, much less.
On the one hand, you’re less explosive when you get older, but if you’re 18, you’re number one and if you’re still playing at 30, you evolve. The rivals know you and they adapt. What you lose physically you gain with the knowledge of how the game in particular and tennis in general works.
It is also true that when you are older you lose audacity, perhaps because of the unconsciousness of youth, that you go crazy and things come to you. At 30 you think things over. You lose one thing and win in others, it is what is called experience.
Your coaching job officially starts in a few days, despite the fact that it started last week in Manacor. What does it mean to train Nadal?
Training Nadal is the greatest challenge I will ever have, the biggest challenge in my entire coaching career. First, for what Rafa means. Second, because I will never be able to train someone as big as him. And thirdly, for what we have lived together, what we have lived on the court and out of it. No challenge will be able to match this one. And I’m prepared for it, I’m going to impact on many things that can improve on the court, but also out of it.
Photo credit: Tennis Buzz
Tennis is not only about big names and big tournaments, but also about coaches and educators who work in the shadows. Martin is one of them; together with his friend Abel, he founded TennisAid, a charity whose purpose is to provide sports equipment and technical assistance to kids living in poor countries. You can find more about Martin and TennisAid’s trips to Uganda here. Thanks Martin for having been kind enough to answer our questions.
We followed your adventures in Uganda last year, are you still in contact with the kids?
Yes, we are in contact with their coaches, they are good friends and we are in constant communication to see how their work progresses and if they have any special needs to be covered.
TennisAid is also involved with another charity, Seneball can you talk a bit about that?
Seneball is a project originated in the Canary Islands by a group of coaches with experience in humanitarian work in India. The idea is to build a tennis court and a classroom in a Senegal village to provide local kids both tennis and education. They asked TennisAid to join in and we gladly accepted.
You also had a project with a refugee camp in Dunkirk
Coach Steve Verkouter from Belgium started visiting the refugee camp in Dunkirk and we contacted him, then we provided him mini-tennis rackets and soft balls and that lead to a short visit to another refugee camp in Athens this past June. A very powerful, sad and learning experience.
What’s next for TennisAid, do you have any new projects?
We just launched our website: www.tennisaid.org and that´s a huge step forward for us. We can show all of our trips, collaborations, special shipments that we send all over the world. We can also receive donations or sell our bracelets. We sold over 5000 of them already. Soon we will have new T´shirts for sale too.
How can we help TennisAid?
The best way to help us is to promote our work, buy our merchandising or make monetary donations. Locally we constantly get a lot of equipment donations and that help us a lot when it comes to travelling or shipping boxes because we don´t have to buy any material.
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 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
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.
Interview by LANCE!, December 2015, translation by Tennis Buzz:
In his private life, Gustavo Kuerten has plenty of reasons to smile. Less than a month ago, the 3-time Roland Garros champion he started surfing and playing beach tennis again. His disposition for sports is something he cultivates.
In addition to celebrating the 15-year anniversary of his victory of the Masters Cup in Lisbon, on December 4th, a title that propelled a Brazilian to the top of world singles ranking for the first time, the former tennis player celebrates another important victory.
Pain, the cruel sequel of being one of the most successful Brazilian athletes, has decreased considerably in recent months. And it has allowed him to remain closer to the form that led him to be the best in the world for 43 weeks.
At 39, Guga focuses on tennis promotion projects and laments the waste of talent in Brazil, as well as the current political scenario in the country. Yet he asks for optimism.
He talked to LANCE! reporter during the inauguration of a Lacoste store, a brand of which he is an ambassador, in Rio de Janeiro. He talked about his recent projects, recalled his career and kept the characteristic critical spirit of his post-tennis life.
Q: Who is Guga today? What is your routine and your goals?
Tennis is still the foundation of my challenges, but in a different way. Today, my contribution is more than 15 years ago, when I was the best in the world. We have several initiation projects, academies, tournaments and full contact with the development of the sport. That moves me, because there is still much wasted talent in Brazil. The idea is to gather athletes across the country. The number of potential players who can play with a racquet is even less than 5%. It’s difficult to have professionals and amateurs tennis players. This is what most moves me on a daily basis. I enjoy being involved with sports and education. I was raised this way and managed a successful career in this world.
Q: What about your personal life?
In parallel to the projects and partnerships, I spend time with my children and family. My life is much more controlled now than when I was an athlete (laughs). Before, we surfed that wave that was carried by the intensity of the circuit. Today, I can plan the series at sea and surf in accordance with the tide. So I think that my contribution is even higher in order to generate a return with more quality and depth, to be at the right time at the right place and thus promote tennis in an interesting way. It is what has been happening in the last ten years.
Q: What do you not miss at all from your tennis career?
Ah, hotels … packing my suitcase and go to the airport! Yeah, that was the worst part (laughs). Each week, I had it twice. Usually, it was on Sunday evening after a final. I came on the same day and on Monday, had to undo everything in another hotel room. I used to wake up and be confused, thinking that the door was on one side, but was on the other, because I had already changed my room and not remembered. I also went to the wrong floor because I had been on that floor the week before (laughs). This is part of an athlete’s life and for South American tennis player, in particular, it’s very hard. You go out for two or three months, not just a week or two. It’s difficult…
Q: How is your body, particularly the hip, and what hurts the most: the pains of a former athlete today, or the pains from you life as an athlete?
Thank God I got back to surfing three weeks ago. For the first time in a long time I also played beach tennis again. I can hit some balls, but but the dialogue with the court is still complicated. It is somewhat frustrating, because my physical capacity is limited. But, in relation to pain, things are much better. Hopefully, my ability to exercise will gradually expand, because it is what I like to do. I love playing with my kids, running after them. I went from two, three steps to 15. It was a victory! This year, I had a brutal effort. I spent two or three hours doing exercises and physiotherapy to achieve this condition.
Q: Do you still do physical therapy?
Yes, I do constantly. It is a sequel of my career. Recently, I spoke with Andre Agassi and he even asked me about the hip. It’s the price we pay for investing so much and so deeply to reach our limits. The matches are sometimes the easiest part. Practices are very hard. In 1997, when people saw me for the first time, I had already spent thousands of hours on the court making absurd demands on my body. It is also part of understanding this process. The advantage I have today is taking time for things to happen with more tranquility. If every year I improve ten meters in my performance, it’s ok. I will soon be back on court (laughs).
Q: Do you watch Federer these days? What do you remember of the times you faced him?
Federer is an example in all aspects. His tennis skills are absurd. If I had to choose the top ten tennis greats, he would be among them. Among the five, three, two, also. He must be. It is difficult to define who is the best of all time, because it is unfair to compare. But he is the guy who will always be considered one of the greatest. He is a spectacular person, with a special charism for tennis, a unique kindness, decency and exemplary conduct. And this guy was my contemporary! When I see today him, I get the feeling that the circuit is not so far from my path.
Q: You said you used to cling to a greater challenge to overcome something smaller that was in front of you on the courts and have even given this tip to Bellucci. Does it apply to your life, on a daily basis?
A common parameter between my professional life and now is having a positive outlook on all aspects. In tennis, it helped me a lot. We already live through so many complicated situations that if I try to see the bad scenario, an avalanche of pessimism comes over me. It works to always look at things very positively. Even my injury. Looking enthusiastically, with hope, facilitates and reduces the negative impact of situations. There are few cases where we really suffer. Sometimes we mourn for bullshit. The difficult thing is to practice it in everyday life, but it’s what I’ve been trying to do (laughs).
Q: What political unrest the country currently faces makes you reflect?
I am increasingly convinced that the only way for Brazil to reach a transformation is through education. People tend to think that the poorer classes need it, but our main political figures show that the largest fortunes often give the worst examples. Education must rinse the country, with decency and respect. People should understand their responsibilities, not just from the legal aspect. Brazil is increasingly trying to compress society with laws and obligations to escape crime, diversion, corruption, but does not promote good conduct or decent ways of living. For those who believe that you need to deviate from the straight line and create shortcuts to grow, there will be no law in the world that can stop them. And there’s no money in the world that can build projects with all this going on. So, we need to invest in people and think long-term educational projects to have larger ranges of answers.
Q: And the Olympics? It is an answer?
We have a postive time and an interesting results’ prediction. I believe that Brazil will break the record for medals at the Olympics. But it’s always little. Our achievements are small compared to the opportunities that appear. We are limited by a very drastic and dramatic national scene. You can not require that the Olympics work well if the country is not doing well in education, health, infrastructure, security. The basic requirements have to be major changes. The sport, the culture and the arts will suffer the same positive interference, but as long as we stay in this mantra to invent laws, do by force and compel people to follow certain rules, things will not work.
Q: What to do in the current scenario?
You have to guide, teach people how to conduct themselves, to know their rights, obligations and responsibilities. And thus get a more collective benefit. I venture to say that Brazil today is more individualistic than ever before. Previously, the country had no money, but thought more collectively. Today, I see the country is in more favorable economic conditions, but everybody wants it all for himself. We are infected by a serious lack of public services and the examples that come from governments. People see the differences around them and it reflects on their actions. It is sad to see our country suffering all these difficulties and know all the potential that exists in this nation.
Q: After eight years of retirement, you still attract the interests of brands and media. How do explain you are still a target?
It is still an opportunity to convey values and concepts with which I work, such as sports and education. I don’t seek a shortcut, a misconduct that leads me to achieve results without merit. I got where I am with effort and discipline. This is an asset and a fundamental background that I need to share. Brands give me that possibility. Because it’s hard! We paddle, row, row and go nowhere. Receiving a hug is good (laughs). It’s a big challenge. You can not make a transformation alone, it is a privilege to count on big brands and deliver a key message to the country today to cultivate persistence in people. We’ve all tend to get tired with the day to day and want to throw in the towel. But we must persist and endure the almost unbearable situation in which our country is, and move on.
Photo credit: Paulo Sergio/LANCE!Press