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My boyfriend being half-Indian, I’m trying to explore Indian culture’

DC | WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA
Published Jan 16, 2015, 11:50 pm IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 12:30 am IST
Former tennis star Marion Bartoli is in India as event ambassador of Mumbai Marathon
Former international tennis player Marion Bartoli - the event ambassador for Mumbai Marathon 2015  - in Mumbai on Wednesday (Photo: DC)
 Former international tennis player Marion Bartoli - the event ambassador for Mumbai Marathon 2015 - in Mumbai on Wednesday (Photo: DC)

French tennis player Marion Bartoli hung up her boots barely six weeks post her sole Wimbledon triumph in 2013. But she did not disappear from the circuit, commentary being her new role for major tournaments.

In the city as the event ambassador for Mumbai Marathon, she told the correspondent about life after retirement, past glories and why she is trying to know Indian culture better. Excerpts

 

Tell us about the link between tennis and your love for marathon. What made you say yes to Mumbai Marathon?

It is sports. I am a sportsperson. On top of that, I’ve had a fair amount of marathons around the world, so it is great to discover this one in Asia. They asked me to be the event ambassador which I think is an honour, it took me 30 seconds to say yes. But the schedule was tight as I have to reach Melbourne on Monday for the Australian Open. I am glad I could work it out. Earlier, I did three marathons in UK and US for charities, through which the people here contacted me.

What are your thoughts about India and Mumbai? What do you think you’ll take back from here?

I want to explore as much as possible. I haven’t got the chance since I landed. It has been press and only, the press. But going around will be interesting. I already saw some great heritage structures, monuments while doing a photoshoot outside Victoria station. I am also eager to discover the food. Since my boyfriend is of Indian origin, it will be even better to know the culture better.

How is life after retirement? What have you been doing apart from commentary?

It has been a blessing. I have my own fashion line, I design accessories (bags, shoes and also jewellery). My second passion is frozen yogurt (smiles). I want to have my own company of frozen yogurt. I saw one in Mumbai too which made me happy. After all this, when I get a bit of time, I play tennis. Being a commentator is a good feeling as well. I can talk about the sport I love.

Don’t you think you could have achieved much more than you did?

Not really, I quit after winning the most important tournament – Wimbledon.

What is your take on International Premier Tennis League?

It was great to see all top players coming to India and participating in the tournament. If given a choice next year, I would love to have a go at it too. For the fans here, they witnessed Roger Federer in action, I can imagine their excitement.

Like cricket, shorter formats are being tried in tennis. Fast4 was recently launched in Australia, how do you think it will work for the sport?

There is this new trend of making the game shorter and faster. But for me, tennis has a lot of history. It is about battling for three to four hours and at times, more than that. I think it is better not to change the sport much or else, the beauty will be lost.

How was it being coached by your father, Walter?

Many coaches had told me I was not good enough for the sport when my father ensured I was mentally and physically fit. He did not try to change my technique as that was personal to me, I was comfortable how I played. Now, he is helping me with my business. He has been there all the time.

What do you think about the growth of tennis as a whole? How competitive it is now compared to what it was during the Steffi Graf-Monica Seles era?

Currently, the sport is at the highest level of competition. It is becoming tougher. That is why there are many upsets. Top players are getting beaten, they cannot win all the time. The margin of rankings have narrowed. The rivalry like a Steffi-Seles is still there in the form of Serena-Maria (Sharapova) and others but you cannot replicate all. These days, every player has a structure in place – a physio, a personal coach, their own support staff. Earlier, only the top five could afford such luxuries.

Who, according to you, is the strongest currently among women?

I would say Serena if you see overall but, Maria has been brilliant on clay.

Where do you think India is going wrong in the international circuit? They have come close many a times but failed to crack the code.

It is a matter of time and now, due to improved facilities, players from Asia have done well in the recent past. Li Na (China) had a good career, Kei Nishikori (Japan) is doing well. I think more tournaments should be organised in India. The players should frequent international tournaments too.

Which is the toughest match you’ve ever played?

It was against Venus Williams in the Stanford final (Bank West Classic), 2009. I won 6-4 in the third set, winning the tournament, after fighting for three hours.

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