“We haven’t seen you since your withdrawal from the Wimbledon semi-finals. How do you feel about starting the Cincinnati Masters 1000?
I am happy to be back here after several years of absence. This is where I became world number 1 for the first time, in 2008, a great memory. And of course the title in 2013… I train pretty well. I hope to be ready. A small abdominal tear is dangerous. It’s an area that’s dangerous because you use it a lot on every serve, so I have to take precautions, get it right. That’s what I try to do.
“You can’t expect to play at an exceptional level from the start. Once you know that, once you’ve accepted that, you gotta be humble enough to hang on with your tools of the moment and win the first game.”
What have the last few weeks been like in terms of preparation?
I went there in stages. I started out doing ten serves. I’ve been serving for ten days. Quietly first. I played my first practice set the day before yesterday (Friday), here. I need a few more days to analyze how it’s going in terms of abdominal sensation. I spent more than a month without serving and without playing a single set. I have to analyze how it reacts every day, make sure the abs are okay. For now, it’s going well. I can’t wait, I want to play tennis again on the circuit. I’m having a good season, I’m having fun, I want that to be the case this week in Cincinnati too.
What are the keys to coming back well after several weeks of absence?
The first thing is to be aware that everything is not going to be perfect right away. You can’t expect to play at an exceptional level right from the start. Once you know that, once you’ve accepted that, you have to be humble enough to hang on with your tools of the moment and win the first game. When you win a game or two, things start to change.
There, we will say that I play more or less correctly. I have good feelings on the court, but the competition is always different. You have to accept the difficulties that will arise, especially in a Masters 1000. When you come back to a 250, or even sometimes to a Grand Slam, if you have a little luck in the draw, even without playing very well, you can win a few matches and give yourself time to raise your level of play. In Masters 1000, adversity is very high from the start. You have to play at a very high level right away. That’s what I need to do. I’m going to try.
“Serena Williams? He is one of the greatest athletes of all time. I feel lucky to have shared so many years with her on the circuit. She is a huge inspiration to so many people.”
You have the opportunity to become world number 1 again in the next few weeks. What would that mean to you, at 36?
The most important thing for me is to stay healthy. If not, everything else is impossible. As I said at the start of the season, being number 1 in the world can no longer be a goal. I don’t play for that. If it happens because I play very well in every tournament I participate in, great, of course. It’s an opportunity that I probably never could have imagined happening again. But I won’t play more than I think my body can handle. I’m also going to have a baby!
I’m just going to give my all on every event I go to. But that’s something I do every time, whether I’m in a position to be world number 1 or not. Obviously, I am happy to be in this privileged position. And if that happens, it will be an incredible feeling.
Serena Williams is about to stop his career. What does it represent for tennis?
I have many memories of her. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time. I feel lucky to have shared so many years with her on the circuit. Selfishly, I find it sad that she’s quitting. But we can’t thank her enough for all she has done for our sport. She is a huge inspiration to so many people around the world.
She deserves to choose what is best for her at this point in her life. I wish him the best. I hope we will continue to see her on the circuit. I have always thought that our sport and all sports are bigger and stronger when their legends are present. And Serena is a legend. »