Interview by Christine Thomas for l’Equipe, translated by Tennis Buzz:

I really got to know him in Miami

My role with Andy actually began last summer (late July) in Florida. Prior to Wimbledon, there were few things that came from me. I really got to know him in Miami. Because it is at work that you learn to know people, but also thanks to the time spent off-court. We could finally have little moments to discuss … only this winter (in Miami) we were able to really work on Andy’s tennis, with a training program designed by the physical trainer and I.

After the Masters, I called him several times

Andy overcame some hurdles since the start of our work together, but also since his back surgery (in September 2013). From a personal point of view, things really started at the Masters (in November). I called him several times after that, I told him what I thought of his game, the important steps he had climbed. I reviewed his game for the first time with him, and we talked together about his game plan. We agreed on everything, which was not a sure thing at the start.

For the first time, I let my instinct talk

I think one way or another, the split with Dani Vallverdu ( at the end of the season, Murray had worked with him since 2010) had to happen. I was not afraid but I was stressed, especially concerning the training program, the content of practice sessions … When we arrived in Miami, for the first time, I felt I was in charge. I’m not a coach in the traditional sense. But anyway, I had to do it. I racked my brain, I took a lot of advice and got inspired by the programming we have with the French Fed Cup team. But ultimately, I have mainly relied on my personal experience. For the first time I let my instinct talk and I soon found out that we were on the same wavelength. I took two weeks off during the holidays and Andy also came back home. Then, I went to Australia on January 3. I haven’t rest since Dani’s departure.

It’s a little sacrifice

It’s true that it’s a little sacrifice to travel, I was tired of travelling. I had thought long and hard before getting involved in this adventure. I had thought: “This is not the lifestyle I want to have anymore but it’s an ambitious project that suits me .. come on, do it!”
From the moment I take the decision, I have to accept what I don’t like, especially travels. But initially I had not planned to do as many weeks (due to the spilt with Vallverdu, who is now Tomas Berdych‘s coach). That’s why I want us to find someone to tournaments with. I can not do everything. Andy will be alone in February, because I’ll take some time off after the Fed Cup’s first round (in Italy next week)! I’ll be with Andy in March for Indian Wells and Miami. But then we gonna have the same problem. We really need to find someone.

I’m feeling more and more confident

During a tournament, my priority is to watch Andy’s next round opponent. Then I watch top seeds he could play further in the tournament, and possible outsiders. I also spend a lot of time watching videos. It’s interesting but that’s a lot of information to digest. It’s not the sexiest part of the job! Dani, he knows the players, I had a lot of catching up to do. But I’m feeling more and more confident. When we talk about opponents with Andy, I see that I’m not off mark! Otherwise, he would not forgive that, and it’s normal. He is demanding, so I have a lot of pressure.

He did not speak only to defend myself

I did not expect at all to what he said on the court. I was really touched, by his words and by his reaction at the end of the match. It is true that it was not easy for me to be at his side, to be scrutinized as I had not been for a while. Our duo was highly criticized. And I think Andy din’t say that only to defend me. It was also for him. It’s been six months since he had to continually justify his choice. He was keen to say, “Hey guys, I know very well what I do … Relax Now”.

I try not to miss one of his looks

I am delighted that he managed to reach a new Grand Slam final because has gone through difficult times. There is also a degree of personal satisfaction. It’s a bit presumptuous to say this but I think so far we prepared the matches well. It will be a big fight against Novak Djokovic. Andy lost each of their last meetings. He’ll have very few opportunities. He has to be enterprising. I have incorporated the fact that once in the box, I can not do anything for him. It’s very different from Fed Cup, where I am on court with the player. When Andy goes on court, I say: “Now you have the keys.” I like that he is independent. In the stands, I always try to slip a word of encouragement, to not miss one of his looks. There are many.

Thanks a lot to Nikos for taking the time to answer our questions on the Tennis Marathon International event and tennis in Greece.

Tennis Marathon

Q: What is the Tennis Marathon International event and how did you get the idea to organize such an event that combines tennis, history and entertainement?

The 2014 International Tennis Marathon™ Event is an innovative international event exclusively for adult amateur tennis players. It combines sport – culture – tourism and entertainment. Tennis fans from all around the world will travel to Athens (Greece) and will have the opportunity to live the Tennis Marathon experience at the facilities located very close to the historic tomb of the Athenians at Marathon City. This was the place where the decisive Battle of Marathon was held in 490 BC, from which emerged both the international term “Marathon” and the sport of the Marathon Race in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.

At the same time the competitors will have the chance to visit the Parthenon, the Acropolis Museum, the Panathenaic Stadium and other historical monuments of world cultural heritage, and also enjoy the Greek hospitality and lively entertainment. The hotel, bungalows and facilities are located on the Mediterranean sea.

Below, pictures of the Panathenaic Stadium, the Marathon Bay and the hosting hotel:

Panathenaic Stadium

Marathon Bay

Hosting Hotel Tennis Marathon

The idea of organizing this International event came after 4 years of organizing the homonymous event in Athens – Greece. In May 2011 I organized the first Tennis Marathon Event and since then I have organized more than 25 events.

The idea of the Tennis Marathon Event was born in the Greek capital, Athens, the home of the Classic Marathon. The idea is to engage a specific number of players in an organized, “Marathon” tennis meeting. The original idea is coupled with a simple and equally unique recipe that makes the event safe and accessible to everyone. The recipe gets even more special by adding ingredients that highlight the importance of the idea of the Tennis Marathon Event and the value of competition and participation.

Q: Do you plan to organize Tennis Marathon in other countries?

My purpose is to expand the Tennis Marathon Events worldwide. The events should be exclusively held by licensed providers who will follow the methodology, rules and philosophy of the original Tennis Marathon Event. The Tennis Marathon brand is an internationally registered trademark in more than 30 countries and is protected by international law.

The right to use the trademark can be acquired only by Licensed Providers. Each tennis club who likes the idea of Tennis Marathon and would like to provide the Tennis Marathon Event at their facilities, can visit the official website: www.tennis-marathon.com and easily become a Licenced provider.

Q: Let’s talk about tennis in Greece, I guess tennis is not as popular as football and basketball?

Tennis in Greece is becoming more popular year by year. Many new facilities have been constructed during the last 10 years. Football and basketball are much more popular, but most of the followers are just fans, not players. On the other hand the number of social tennis players is increasing year after year.

Q: Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis are both Greek descendants as well as Australian hopes Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, how do you explain Greece has never produced a big tennis champion?

There is a big gap between social tennis and competitive tennis in Greece. The first is growing year by year, the second is unfortunately getting worst. There are many reasons for this. The main reason is the lack of infrastructure and education on tennis matters in Greece. Despite this fact there is a great tennis player who is still playing on the Tour, coming from Greece, Eleni Daniilidou, former WTA #14. Marcos Baghdatis, former ATP #8 grew up in Cyprus and as far as I know the Cyprus Tennis Federation helped him a lot at the beginning of his career.
Nick Galis was the player who changed once and for all basketball in Greece, in the 80’s. I don’t know if this is going to happen in tennis. But you never know. This is the… Greek miracle!

Nikos with Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras

Nikos with Marcos Baghdatis

Marcos Baghdatis

Q: 10 years ago, Athens organized the Olympics Games, many stadiums built for the Games are now in decay, is the tennis stadium still in use?

The Olympic tennis facilities were in use until 2012, by hosting ITF Tournaments. Unfortunately today there is almost no use of these facilities, basically due to the economic crisis and also due to bureaucracy.

Q: You worked as a volunteer for the Paralympic Games in Athens, what was your role and which are your biggest memories of those Games?

Before the Athens Paralympics I have worked as a volunteer for the Olympic Games in Sydney. I worked at the spectator services in the Olympic Stadium ( track events ). I will never forget how I felt when I listened to the Anthem of the Olympic Games in Greek language, during the opening ceremony.
At the Paralympics in Athens my role was at the wheelchair tennis players services. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, to watch these super-athletes moving and playing on the field.

Q: You also helped promoting beach tennis in Greece, is it popular and do you plan to organize Beach Tennis Marathon one day?

Beach Tennis is not as popular as Tennis in Greece, as it is happens worldwide. Beach Tennis is quite a new sport. I personally have already organized some Beach Tennis Marathon Tournaments in Athens the past years. There will also be a “Getting to know Beach tennis” session during the 2014 Tennis Marathon International Event.

Q:To put an end to this interview, a few words to convince people to take part to the Tennis Marathon International event?

The moto of the 2014 International Tennis Marathon Event is “Tennis Meets History”. Greece is not a traditional tennis country, of course, although the tennis sport was first hosted in the Olympics Games, in 1896, in Athens city. In 2014 the Tennis Marathon will be held for the first time at the home of Marathon Race, at Marathon City. From my experience as an athlete and also as a volunteer, the most important reason to take part in such an unprecedented event is to become a part of it!

The registrations deadline will be extend to the 26th of May, but there will be no refund in case of registrations after the 30th of April. Find out more info on tennis-marathon.com

Indian Wells

Legendary tennis commentator Bud Collins explains how unique the atmosphere is at Indian Wells. Interview by Vincent Cognet for L’Equipe, translated by Tennis Buzz.

Q: You knew this tournament long before it moved to Indian Wells. What are your memories of those years?
It was already a good tournament but it moved often. And all the best ones were not always there, unlike today, but those who had loved it because it is one of the most beautiful places in our country. (Former tournament director) Charlie Pasarell had to fight because it was planned to move the tournament to China. But this tournament has always been relaxed, almost family at a time.

Q: The weather is also really cool
Not always! Sometimes it blew a terrible wind. One year, the press tent flew away. Between us we thought it was Richard Nixon who did it! Moreover, the final was not held that year.
Another year, Jimmy Connors and Roscoe Tanner had reached the final, but the wind was so violent that it was impossible to play. Both players refused to enter the court until NBC, the tournament broadcaster, decided to bang its fists on the table. Connors and Tanner did not say anything and played the final.
I also remember a year, it must have been in 1974, where the referee could not make the draw, he threw the coin up into the air but it never fell down, because there was so much wind! It was completely insane.

Q: What do you think of Larry Ellison, the owner of the tournament?
He is a very discreet, private person. And he loves tennis, he also has a private coach, a former pro who never really made it to the next level. He seems to do quite well racquet in hand.

Q: Do you think players are more relaxed here than on the rest of the circuit?
Absolutely! Players are different. They do not feel persecuted or spied. At Indian Wells everyone mixes with everyone. It has always been the desire of Pasarell, players owe him a lot.

Photo by Rick, find out more pics of Indian Wells 2011 here.

Watch Tennis Australia interview with Lleyton Hewitt as he shares his memories of his Wimbledon triumph in 2002.

Bad draw this year for Hewitt, but perhaps one last chance to play on Centre Court: he will meet 5th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round.

Some extracts of Serena Williams interview by Sneaker Freaker

Serena Williams Nike outfit

Welcome to Melbourne Serena. You’ve won the Australian Open so many times, you must enjoy it here.
I don’t know if it’s politically correct for me to say this, but it’s by far my favourite Grand Slam.

I bet you say that to all the boys.
No, I do… I say it to all the boys but not just about the Grand Slams!

I was listening to you talk before about your new Nike dress for this tournament and I realized you must live in summer all year long. Is that weird?
I know, it’s my job! I have an endless summer. Traveling the world constantly when it’s summer time is what I do. It’s cool, but it’s super hot here. (laughs)

I know you are an enthusiastic advocate for Black History Month, but it’s something that probably doesn’t mean a lot to anyone outside the USA.
I am. Well it’s in February, so it’s a great month, and it’s something I totally support. Nike now raise awareness for Black History Month internationally, which is cool because they could have just left this as strictly a United States thing. I think every Nike athlete in the United States will be playing in a Black History Month shoe, which is really cool as well. But in general it’s just about raising awareness – and that includes other minorities as well. It’s not just about black people. When you have athletes doing so well and becoming an inspiration and a role model for so many people, it’s an incredible positive.

Some athletes don’t like the idea of being a role model. Do you feel like a role model for women and other black American athletes?
Yeah I do. I love it, it’s important for kids to know that you can be successful and you can be strong, especially when you’re a female. You can still be sexy as well, you can be powerful, but you can still be smart.

With your background in fashion, did you have a role in the evolution of this year’s BHM pieces?
I can’t say I did. Nike came up with this great concept of the stripes on the side, where the colours represent different countries and stories. They represent Kenya, Mississippi, the state’s colours, and the other is Brazil. So it’s cool, it’s a mixture of a lot of different cultures and different aspects, and like I said, it’s international, so that’s why we brought Brazil and Kenya into the mix.

You famously grew up in Compton. Why has tennis been so utterly inaccessible for black American athletes? Aside from your sister, there’s Arthur Ashe of course, plus James Blake, Zina Garrison, Malavai Washington…
I know, but tennis is not an accessible sport in general. It’s always been a rich person’s sport, at least until it was taken to eastern Europe. No-one in eastern Europe is really that rich, but kids were able to get time on a tennis court which kinda knocked it off being an elitist sport. I think that had a lot to do with it. Tennis is expensive. You need to buy rackets, you need to get them strung every week, it takes a lot of money and dedication. But if you have a basketball, you can just hang out with your friends on the street and get good.

Read the complete interview on Sneaker Freaker

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Nike Tennis x Serena Williams – Black History Month Pack