McEn­roe says Mur­ray can ‘do some dam­age’ at US Open

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Si­mon Briggs

Amer­i­can plays down plan to ban un­ac­cept­able out­fits World No26 ques­tions her favourite tag for US Open

Cit­ing strong re­la­tions with the or­gan­is­ers of the French Open, Ser­ena Wil­liams took a con­cil­ia­tory line yes­ter­day on their threat to ban her iconic black cat­suit from Roland Gar­ros next year.

In a mag­a­zine in­ter­view that came out last week, the French Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent, Bernard Gi­u­di­celli, had said that he wanted to ex­er­cise more con­trol over what play­ers wore dur­ing the show­piece event.

“Ser­ena’s out­fit this year, for ex­am­ple, would no longer be ac­cepted,” he ex­plained. “You have to re­spect the game and the place.”

This sounded like a provoca­tive ges­ture and brought plenty of ad­verse com­ment from writ­ers and pun­dits. “This is so dumb and stupid it hurts,” said Wil­liams’s close friend Andy Rod­dick. Many crit­ics ques­tioned why the FFT was in­ter­fer­ing and cited the prece­dent of Anne White, an­other Amer­i­can, who caused a sen­sa­tion when she wore a white cat­suit at Wim­ble­don in 1985.

But when Wil­liams took ques­tions for the first time here yes­ter­day on the is­sue, she played down any ill feel­ing. In­stead, she laughed and told re­porters: “Every­thing is fine, guys.”

Ex­pand­ing on her re­la­tion­ship with Gi­u­di­celli, she said: “The pres­i­dent of the French fed­er­a­tion, he’s been re­ally amaz­ing. He’s been so easy to talk to. My whole team is ba­si­cally French, so we have a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship. I’m sure we would come to an un­der­stand­ing and every­thing will be OK. Yeah, so it wouldn’t be a big deal. He’s a re­ally great guy.”

Fash­ion has been a ma­jor el­e­ment of ten­nis since the dawn of the sport 130-odd years ago, and the right of women to wear what they want has been de­bated for just as long.

Suzanne Len­glen’s Flap­per-style out­fits be­came her trade­mark when she achieved global fame in the 1920s, while Gussie Mo­ran’s lace-trimmed knick­ers pro­voked a storm in 1949. Wil­liams’s cat­suit was thus main­tain­ing the great tra­di­tions of the sport when it caught the head­lines at the end of May.

Her first-round win over Kristyna Pliskova in Paris was un­event­ful in a ten­nis sense – ex­cept that it rep­re­sented her first grand-slam match since the pre­vi­ous year’s Aus­tralian Open.

But the pho­to­graphs made front pages around the world and Wil­liams turned her fash­ion state­ment into a ral­ly­ing cry when she tweeted: “Cat­suit any­one? For all the moms out there who had a tough re­cov­ery from preg­nancy – here you go. If I can do it, so can you.”

The un­usual gar­ment did also have a prac­ti­cal ben­e­fit. Wil­liams has a ten­dency to suf­fer from blood clots and thus in­sists on wear­ing com­pres­sion cloth­ing when she com­petes.

“I’ve since found other meth­ods,” she said. “I wear tights that keep every­thing go­ing with my blood, make sure that I’m stay­ing pretty healthy out there. When it comes to fash­ion, you don’t want to be a re­peat of­fender. It will be a while be­fore this even has to come up again.”

Wil­liams is not known as a per­son who backs down eas­ily, but in this case one sus­pects that her French coach – Pa­trick Mouratoglou – might have played a role. Mouratoglou re­cently opened a large ten­nis com­plex near Nice, where many of France’s lead­ing play­ers train. For him, main­tain­ing a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Gi­u­di­celli can only be ben­e­fi­cial.

The book­mak­ers are still quot­ing Wil­liams as the favourite for the US Open ti­tle, de­spite her world rank­ing of No 26 and a tally of only 12 wins – half of which came at Wim­ble­don – from six events this sea­son. A month ago, she suf­fered the heav­i­est de­feat of her pro­fes­sional ca­reer – a 6-1, 6-0 loss at the hands of Bri­tish No1 Jo­hanna Konta – which she later at­trib­uted to her emo­tional up­heaval at see­ing the man who shot her sis­ter, Ye­tunde, be­ing re­leased from prison.

Those shocks be­fell Wil­liams dur­ing a brief ap­pear­ance in Cal­i­for­nia, at the Sil­i­con Val­ley Clas­sic in San Jose, and she then crashed out of her fol­low­ing tour­na­ment – in Cincin­nati a fort­night later – at the hands of Pe­tra Kvi­tova as early as the sec­ond round.

Still, as Chris Evert, the ESPN pun­dit, pointed out last week: “I didn’t re­ally feel like that was a fail­ure for her [Wil­liams]. I felt like for a set, set and a half, she def­i­nitely had her ‘A’ game go­ing [against Kvi­tova]. I hear her say that she can feel it and taste it and she’s close and she needs to keep work­ing harder – and you know she is.”

Asked about the odd­s­mak­ers yes­ter­day, Wil­liams raised her eye­brows. “That I would be the favourite at this point, al­most a year af­ter hav­ing a baby, is quite in­ter­est­ing,” she replied. “I don’t know my draw [which could fea­ture sis­ter Venus in the third round, fol­lowed by world No 1 Si­mona Halep in the fourth], but if I want to be the best, I’m go­ing to have to start beat­ing these peo­ple any­way.

“That’s the mes­sage I’ve been preach­ing to women and peo­ple; that we face ob­sta­cles. Whether you get through them or not, there’s al­ways an­other chance. Things don’t al­ways go your way, but con­tinue to climb that moun­tain.” As Andy Mur­ray pre­pares for his first grand-slam match in 13 months, John McEn­roe, the ten­nis leg­end and broad­caster, has cast new light on the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing with chronic hip pain. And McEn­roe’s per­sonal story un­der­lines what a de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion this can be.

McEn­roe took a six-month break from ten­nis at the age of 26, partly be­cause of psy­cho­log­i­cal burnout, but also – he re­vealed yes­ter­day – be­cause he wanted to give his own groan­ing hip a break. When he came back, though, he never rekin­dled his for­mer bril­liance.

“I didn’t have surgery like Andy,” said McEn­roe, who will be part of ESPN’s com­men­tary team dur­ing the US Open, which starts to­mor­row. “But my hip was part of the rea­son I took the time off when I had six months out and I’m an­other guy who came back and was never the same player as be­fore.

“I thought there was an­other gear I could find but I didn’t find it and it was dis­ap­point­ing and frus­trat­ing. I never felt I moved as well as I did the first seven or eight years of my ca­reer and it’s hard for that not to be in your head.”

Mur­ray will par­tic­i­pate in a best-of­five-set match for the first time in 411 days when he faces Aus­tralia’s James Duck­worth – the only man on the en­try list with a lower world rank­ing than his own No378 – to­mor­row.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Fri­day, Mur­ray said that he would bring a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity to any pre­vi­ous tour­na­ment, based more on find­ing out how his body re­sponds than com­pet­ing for the ti­tle – some­thing he said would not be “re­al­is­tic”.

McEn­roe re­vealed that he had dis­cussed the same point with Mur­ray last week. “He more or less said to me he didn’t have a chance of win­ning the US Open and that it’s just been a process.

“Maybe if he can get some con­fi­dence and start to be­come more aware of what he’s ca­pa­ble of – be­cause be­stof-five is a lot dif­fer­ent than best-ofthree – then he could put to­gether a good run.

“De­pend­ing on how close he is to be­ing Andy Mur­ray, of course he has a chance against any­one. Men­tally and phys­i­cally, how far back is he in terms of his fit­ness and ten­nis? Is his hip both­er­ing him?

“But we’re talk­ing about a guy who has been there and done it, so to think he couldn’t do some dam­age or make some in­roads would be a mis­take. To be able to go seven matches and win those … the cards would have to play out per­fectly for him.”

‘The pres­i­dent of the French fed­er­a­tion has been amaz­ing. I’m sure we would come to an un­der­stand­ing’

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