Alcaraz breaks new ground in Paris
Catch up on what the world's best players had to say on Friday ahead of the kick-off of Roland-Garros
They came, they saw, they spoke! Tennis' top stars filed in to chat with media in Paris on Friday.
Catch up with the "he said, she said" here.
"I think it's a compliment, but for me I just focus on being myself because I'm never going to be Serena Williams and Serena will never be me because we are two different people. We have two different brains. I understand why people compare us, but I think it's just important that I want to be known as Coco. I don't want to be known as Serena Williams' heir, or Serena Williams' next thing. I just want to be known as Coco Gauff."
– Coco Gauff, who proclaimed that she has always dreamt about playing Serena Williams in a final, talks about what it's like being compared to the legend.
“No, honestly it feels like a lifetime ago. I think coming back to the site here at Roland-Garros is obviously pretty special, pretty cool to be able to walk onto Chatrier and have so many memories kind of come flooding back. A lot of it I also don't remember and feels like it was such a long time ago.”
– Defending a title at Roland-Garros? Yes, but one from another lifetime, says 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty.
"I think it's important not to really care sometimes what people think of you and how they perceive you. It's only your ideas and your thoughts that actually kind of represent you. Sometimes when you're stuck in these kind of ideas, it's more important what people care about you than what you care about yourself, it can kind of pushes you back and keeps you still."
– Stefanos Tsitsipas started this discussion talking about his favourite quote, by Winston Churchill, then finished with some philosophy of his own.
"Maybe we're gonna have a chance to do that later, but we just had like a quick small talk last year, and yesterday he said hi to me. For now I'm too overwhelmed to even say hi. I'm a big fan of his, and if I'm gonna have a chance to, you know, ask him some stuff and also learn from him, it would be great, but we are both busy, so I know it's gonna be hard to schedule that."
– 2020 Roland-Garros champion Iga Swiatek, on whether she has ever had the chance to talk to Rafael Nadal about defending the Roland-Garros title.
“My best memories here haven’t happened yet, but the first time I came here into the stadium as a kid, I came here with a big ball looking for all the players to sign. My dream was to play the tournament, that’s why it’s always so special to come back."
– Lucas Pouille is thrilled to be back at Roland-Garros after missing 2020, and hopes that his best days are in front of him.
"I'm not really thinking about the Grand Slam. This is just another tournament. As always, I just have to show my level and be there, 100 per cent on, and wins will come. This is what I mentally change."
"Of course is something amazing for me to have recognition like this in the most important place in my tennis career, something probably unprecedented. Is true that I did something very special here in this event. But at the same time, I can't thank enough Roland-Garros, the French Federation, everybody, all the employees, for that recognition, no? Have been very special for me and to have a memory like this forever in Roland-Garros is something that makes me feel very proud and very satisfied."
– King of Clay Rafael Nadal is humbled by the steel statue of him, that was unveiled on the Roland-Garros grounds yesterday.
"All my life I’ve had very high expectations for myself. I don’t think Toni adds more to that. What I’m trying to do, be top-10 and eventually win Grand Slams, there is nothing higher than that. Adding somebody that has done it before brings more calmness and confidence than pressure, really."
– Felix Auger-Aliassime on the pressure - or lack thereof - that comes with having Toni Nadal as your coach at Roland-Garros.
"I think that all of them are super tough to play, and all of them have their favourite surface, as well. But in my opinion, to play Rafa here on the Chatrier court, it's still the toughest challenge. But I guess also outside of tennis, it's probably one of the most difficult things ever in sports in general to beat him here on this court, as his 102 matches is incredible, and as I said, one of the biggest achievements ever in sport. So face him here is probably the most difficult still."
– Dominic Thiem's reply to the question: Which of the 'Big 3' is the hardest to face, and why?
"So far I have been playing amazing. I mean, I didn't feel that it was clay. I [felt like I] was playing like on hard courts. Yeah, I really like the conditions here so far, and looking forward to make a great tournament, to be honest."
– He may be 0-4 lifetime at Roland-Garros, but Daniil Medvedev is feeling good in Paris practice sessions.
“I’m really happy, it’s a great feeling to play here in my first main draw here at Roland-Garros. Everyone is really hungry to qualify for the main draw so for me it’s a great feeling and I’m feeling really comfortable on court - let’s see who I play against in the main draw.”
– 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who qualified for the Roland-Garros main draw for the first time, and lost just 11 games in the process.
"If he comes here, it's that he still feels that he can do something very good. I am as impatient as you to see how he will handle this. It's interesting to see how a legend like him will handle it all, all these questions, that everyone in the world is asking. From my point of view, athletically speaking, what I saw in one weekend, it was already extraordinary. I think he's going to be not easy to match, by a lot of the players.”
– Gael Monfils, who practiced with Roger Federer recently, is very curious to see how the Swiss handles the pressures of Grand Slam tennis next week in Paris.