Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:
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?
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.
I spent a great few days at Roland Garros this year, I tried to share my experience live via my new instagram account @tennisbuzzlive, I hope you enjoyed it. Here’s a recap of my Roland Garros 2015 in 15 instagrams.
1- May 21st, my first day at Roland Garros 2015, the third day of the qualifyings. Few people in the alleys, a relaxed atmosphere, a different way to enjoy the Roland Garros stadium before the actual start of the tournament.
2- My first RG15 match: German hope Alexander Zverev vs Igor Sijsling.
3- Defending champion Maria Sharapova hard at work, I really enjoy watching players at practice, interacting with their teams and fans. More pics of Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros 2015.
It seems that every year a relatively unknown player reaches the second week of Roland Garros. This year this player is Alison Van Uytvanck. After wins over Anna Schmiedlova, Zarina Diyas and Kristina Mladenovic, she’s through to her first Grand Slam fourth round.
Aged 21, she won her maiden WTA title in Taipei in 2013, and reached her best ranking (73) in September last year. She is coached by former top Belgian player Ann Devries.
— Dominique Monami (@DominiqueMonami) May 30, 2015
Alison is the last Belgian standing at Roland Garros, as David Goffin lost to Jérémy Chardy yesterday. We wish her good luck for her next match against another surprising player, Andreea Mitu ranked 99.
By Bruce Schoenfeld, Tennis Magazine (November/December 2004)
At 28, Jennifer Capriati knows her days are numbered. Following a dramatic but disappointing run to the US Open semifinals, her hopes of another major victory now rest on the 2005 Australian Open.
Jennifer Capriati had been crying. Her red-rimmed eyes gave her away as she stepped into the interview room in Arthur Ashe stadium after her semifinal loss to Elena Dementieva at the US Open. Usually so calm, so cautious, so media-trained, she couldn’t help but offer a glimpse into her soul.
Who could blame her? It was all so unfair. She’d fought so hard against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, doing what she had to do to win, only to have it undermined by that silly controversy about the umpire’s overrule. For two days, it was all she saw on television, the ball landing near the line and Serena striding toward the chair. Didn’t they have anything else to talk about? Lying in bed at night, she replayed the point over and over, like a bad song she couldn’t get out of her head. Then, against Dementieva, she had found herself a game away from finally reaching a US Open final after all these years. And wouldn’t you know it? The wind was swirling, the sun was in her eyes, and suddenly she was out of the Open again, facing a press conference like so many others.
She’d squandered her fist opportunity, in 1991, as a 15-year-old, losing a memorable semifinal match to Monica Seles in a third-set tiebreaker that would haunt Capriati for years. A decade later, in 2001, she reached another semifinal, this time losing to Venus Williams in straight sets. And then last year she’d served for the match in the semis against Justine Henin-Hardenne but couldn’t close it out. This year’s semifinal against Dementieva, who was floating seves of 60 mph and slower across the net, presented her best chance, and possibly her last.
“I was just thinking, Play the wind the best you can,” she murmured. “I guess I waited for her maybe to make a few more errors. I mean, I can’t really…” She trailed off. “I don’t know.”
By Suzi Petkovski, Tennis Week, February 2002:
Rarely does the sequel beat the original. Jennifer Capriati was mindful of that as she returned to the Australian Open, site of her fairy-tale first Slam win 12 months before.
“It’s pretty tough to top last year,” Capriati conceded. “I mean, that’s the best I’ve ever played.”
But Capriati had cause to reconsider after her courageous 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2 comeback victory over Martina Hingis in a dramatic 2002 Australian Open final played in brutal heat.
“I don’t know which one was better, winning last year or this year,” beamed the 25-year-old after an arduously successful first Grand Slam defense. “I don’t know what there is to come. But definitely, this is the most unique victory.” Jen, we’re, like, really stoked for you and stuff.
Capriati recovered from a 6-4 4-0 deficit and stood a point from 5-1. She stared down four match points in two separate games, as well as the tiebreak, in the second set. For the first half of the match, the American’s play had been inhibited; a contrast to the blazing winners of last year. But on those critical match points, Capriati was a lion. Not for 40 years has a woman overcome match points in a Grand Slam final; no one has ever survived four.
All this was achieved in horrific heat that turned the Australian Open final into the Australian Open furnace. Temperatures in the stands hit 90°F, but on court the mercury was a brain-frying 107°F.
“It was just really hard to breathe; the air was just so thick and so hot,”
said Capriati of the toughest on-court conditions she’d ever endured. A big call coming from a Floridian.
For all the 130 minutes of the final, the capacity 15,000 crowd wasn’t watching a sporting contest so much as wincing at a form of cruel and unusual punishment. In between long, searching points both players sought relief by taking the seats of line judges, slumping exhausted over the courtside slock, leaving the court several times, and in the case of Hingis, donning an ice vest. During the 10-minute break at the end of the 66-minute second set, both women were packed in ice in the locker room – “quite a sight,” Martina related.
As a Hingis backhand floated wide to give Capriati the tumultuous second set, the Swiss Miss hurled her racquet from baseline to coutside seat. She sensed she’d thrown away her last chance for victory. And so it proved. Hingis dreaded the thought of going back into the inferno. “I didn’t really believe in it anymore.” When they returned, the 21-year old was running on fumes. She’d been on court for a three-set doubles final victory the previous day, also in scorching heat, and fooled no one when she made the first break of the decider to go ahead 2-1.
“My head was all over the place,” recalled Martina. “I knew I probably wouldn’t last if I really needed to.”
Hingis’ physical collapse was as painful as it was inevitable. On her penultimate service game, the spring gone from her step, she foot-faulted to hand the break to Capriati. Finally, on the Hingis serve, Capriati clinched consecutive Aussie crowns with a forehand return winner on her first match point. Having won just four of the first 14 games, Capriati hammered out 13 of the next 17.
Physical strength and staying power, so impressive a feature of Capriati’s triumph in 2001, again proved decisive. This year, a new face joined Capriati’s travelling troupe: trainer Chantal Menard, a Milan-based, former world kickboxing champion. But even more impessive was Capriati’s mental steel. “The whole time, even though I was coming from behind, I thought I could still win this,” Jennifer revealed. “I never really thought of myself as being defeated out there.”
Indeed, Capriati was indomitable in the face of many mental battles: the strain of defending a Slam for the first time, the jolting loss to Alexandra Stevenson in her first match at Sydney, and she strained hip flexors that she carried into the tournament. She came back from a break down in the third set against Greek newcomer Eleni Daniilidou and staved off a set point against Rita Grande in the fourth round. Agasint the erratic Amelie Mauresmo in the quarters, Capriati was ruthless, winning 6-2 6-2, and in a semifinal of fierce, primal hitting against Kim Clijsters, she broke free 6-1 in the third.
But the most perilous test came in the final against Hingis. “I had a lot to deal with out thee,” Capriati reflected.
“Just being the defending champion, trying to keep the No.1 status, dealing with the conditions, and I didn’t feel like I was playing my best tennis in the beginning. So it means a lot to me that, as long as you just stay in there and try your hardest and fight, it can win you matches and that’s exactly what I did today.”
My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).
Players entering the court:
4-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, visibly happy to be on court: