By Guillaume Willecoq and Marijo Marugan
The press room is about to crack. Seven cameras and more than twenty photographers are pointing in the direction of the player’s seat for the interviews. The professionals are setting up their microphones and notebooks to prepare for it. The door opens and lets in the man with the red cap with the famous sign “RF” on it, the man with 16 Grand Slams. The flashes start to crackling like a swarm of bees buzzing into your ears. Even if he’s no longer number 1, he still captures a large audience among the media with no doubt.
Q. (Reporter) We are talking a lot these days about the change in the POPB’s surface, what’s your opinion?
A. (Federer) I haven’t really had the opportunity to play on it, but it seems clearly faster. It’s good to see tournaments making the move for faster surfaces. It’s a change. Indoor is supposed to be quite fast. It’s a good thing for the younger players and for tennis.
Q. How do you feel to start this tournament?
A. Pretty well. I’m lacking of feeling on the surface, but Iâ€™m feeling well. I took a break after the US open, and another one before BÃ¢le, so Iâ€™m in form.
Q. You never had your best results in Bercy. How do you explain this curious anomaly?
A. A lot of things can explain that: the quality of the opponent, some fatigue… (For the record he lost twice to the eventual winner Nalbandian in 2007 and Tim Henman in 2003, and had to withdraw in 2008, lost to the guy on fire Benneteau last year). But there is a question about the size of the center court which I haven’t clearly had time to accommodate to. It’s a bit like Roland Garros, the court is very large with a lot of space behind the lines. You feel that the court is very tiny and you are afraid to hit the ball hard. In Roland Garros, I chose to come earlier at the tournament to adjust to the conditions of play. For Bercy it’s a little harder since Iâ€™m playing in Basel the previous week, Iâ€™m always coming at the last minute. I simply need to play more matches on that court.
Q. You are taking on Richard Gasquet in the next round, he’s been through some up and down years. How do you look at him, since he beat you in Monte Carlo in 2005?
A. A lot of things change in five years. He must have played more than 200 matches, traveled a lot, been injured, like everyone else. He had some good results, and some bad ones. But the talent is the same. To be honest, I don’t know if he’s ranked 30th or 70th this week, and I don’t care. Richard is a very good player, and could deserve to be in the top10. As far as Iâ€™m concerned, it’s always a pleasure to play against him, he has such a good backhand.
Q. these last years, and more globally since the generation of Nadal and Gasquet, the younger players are struggling to come through in the rankings. What is your take on that?
A. Hum… comparing to the beginning of my career, the game has become more physical. It’s not only a question of talent or mental: to break through you need to be strong physically right from the start. For a younger player coming in, it’s a bit harder now.
Q. in France there is a lot of talking about Davis cup lately… can you talk about your debut in that competition?
A. I was lucky for not being thrown in it too fast… I spent a year as, how do you say: “coupeur de citrons? (*Itâ€™s a funny expression used in sports, usually football, meaning that he was the extra guy on the bench, he did not play any tie, he was observing and getting the experience of being part of the team !) (Laughing)… it was in 1998, I think. In 1999 I played against Italy. I beat Sanguinetti and it gave a boost to all the team : Marc Rosset and Mezzadri our captain then… It was a huge moment. But my hardest match was during the next tie. It was in Belgium, on clay. It was very hot; it was the first time I cramped during a tennis match. A hard match I lost in five sets against Van Garsse. Davis cup is special. When you play and individual game it’s not easy in the beginning to get under the control of a federation, coaches and other players. It’s difficult to adapt to, when you are a young player. Looking back then, I learn a lot from it.
The French tennis website 15-LoveTennis is covering the Paris Masters tournament as media for Global Village Tennis News. Follow their French language coverage on http://www.15-lovetennis.com/ and their English coverage here on GVTN.