“You have just brought the second Masters title in the history of French tennis. What do you feel ?
I am very proud to succeed Amelie (Mauresmo) who did it in 2005. We were lucky to have great champions in the past and I’m really proud to be part of it. It’s the biggest title of my career. I have already won a lot of titles, this year it’s the fourth (after Bad Homburg, Warsaw and Cincinnati). Each time, whether it’s a 250 or more, it means a lot. There is a lot of work behind. There are emotions when you have the match point, when you lift the trophy. You have all the memories of all the difficult times, of the people who supported you. Winning the Masters, I’m not going to say that was the goal at the start of the season, but I’m super proud of this year, this week and this final.
Do you realize that you mark French tennis? Is it important for you to leave an important mark?
It’s not the main motivation, but it’s in a little corner of your head. When you see the little girls whose hands tremble when they want you to sign a ball, it means a lot and it brings a lot of emotions because I was those little girls too. Being on the other side, sharing a moment with them, “making their day over” for them, when for you it’s so little, it’s great. This is an important step in my career. I really hope to continue to grow my record.
“It has always been a goal to win a Grand Slam, but let’s say it’s more concrete now”
Regarding the match, you have long been in difficulty on Sabalenka’s second serves. You also fell back slightly on the return at the end of the first set…
I feel like it was more in the middle of the first set. I moved back a little behind the line on first and on second I got on the line. In the tie-break, it got me a little drunk so I moved forward (smile). It worked a bit. I couldn’t do it on his seconds. She served really big seconds with good effect, she varied her areas. I couldn’t anticipate, to do much. I backed up a bit, didn’t do much more, then moved forward again. We know that she can serve very well but also make double faults. In the tie-break, I preferred to advance and it paid off.
You mentioned Amélie Mauresmo. In 2005, she won the Masters in the United States (Los Angeles). In 2006, she won the Australian Open. What give you ideas?
Obviously, it is a great source of inspiration. During the week, we wrote to each other. I commented on one of his photos and we started to write to each other. I asked her what she had done in pool the year she won. She told me she lost a game (against Mary Pierce, whom she had beaten a few days later in the final) with a wink. It was funny. I am super proud to join Amélie. It’s always been a goal to win a Grand Slam, but let’s say it’s more concrete now (smile).
“When I arrived here, with less than ideal preparation, we assumed that I still knew about tennis and that my tennis was still there”
Mentally, do you feel like you’ve reached another milestone, especially after the US Open semi-final?
The semi-final of the US Open marked me a lot (6-1, 6-3 defeat against Ons Jabeur). It was a somewhat difficult experience to manage. I was really disappointed with my performance after playing so well for several weeks. It helped me today. When I arrived here, with less than ideal preparation, we tried to accept and make the most of it. We assumed that I still knew about tennis and that my tennis was still there. That I had to have the clearest possible ideas to be successful. Match after match, I was more and more relaxed, confident, physically I felt better and better and the level really improved over the week.
You are back 4th in the world. Do you think you still have room for improvement in different areas, whether tennis, physical or mental?
I think yes. These are not big things, but full of small details. My second serve can be better, more varied, more aggressive at times. On the way back, I can be more precise on my zones, especially on the second. I’m an aggressive player, but sometimes my attacks aren’t super precise so I pass. Physically, we can still gain a little to be a little more explosive and cover my ground a little better. And mentally, you never get to the end of your mental work. In my last two matches, I have plenty of positives to take on how I managed my emotions. Take inspiration from this to continue to progress. »