COLLEGE PARK, MD -- Few tennis players in recent memory have had a tougher year than France's Virginie Razzano has in 2011.
First, Razzano was forced to struggle through the lower levels of the WTA tour because of a debilitating foot injury that struck her in 2010 when she was at a career high ranking of No. 16, an injury that she claimed (in a lawsuit) was made worse by a WTA trainer.
But her foot injuries were nowhere near as painful as her personal loss in May of this year, as her fiance and coach, Stephane Vidal, died at the age of 32 from a brain tumor. The two had been together for 11 years.
Only a week later, Razzano played in her home slam, the French Open, fulfilling his wish. Despite the devastation she felt, Razzano competed admirably in her first round loss to No. 24 Jarmila Gajdosova.
Razzano has continued to play and compete as best she can, winning her first round match at Wimbledon before falling to top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.
Razzanoplayed her first tournament of the hard court season at the Citi Open in College Park, Maryland, making it into her second WTA quarterfinal of the year with straight set victories over Misaki Doi and No. 6 Elena Baltacha/ She eventually fell to American Irina Falconi in Friday's quarterfinal.
After she finished practice Thursday, I talked to Virginie about her incredible perseverance through both physical and emotional setbacks.
SBN: You've been on a long road back--I know you had some foot problems last year, and you thought the WTA was to blame for part of that Has that all been resolved?
Virginie Razzano: You know, I don't want to come back to that. It was not a good story for me, with my foot and the physio that caused the complications. For me it's very important to turn the page, and I've turned the page on last year already when I finished my season, before starting this one. Now it's more tennis, focusing on that. I can't think any more about all that (laughs).
SBN: Because your ranking went down, you had to go back to playing qualies for a while. But you fought through that pretty well, and have had some pretty good wins this year including over Maria Sharapova in Fed Cup. Do you think your game is all the way back to where it was pre-injury?
Virginie Razzano: Yes, I've tried my best to practice to come back to my best ranking, because I was No. 16 in the world when I had my foot injury. It was not good for me, because I had to stop a few months for that. My foot was okay, but to play in competition you need to have confidence in your matches. I needed more matches, more competing to feel better both mentally and with my game, in order to win some matches. And then winning gives you confidence. I played so good this year, I started very good in Australia, Melbourne, and then after through to the French Open.
But the French Open...it was a difficult moment because of my boyfriend, for me. And, you know, sometimes in your life, in professional tennis and your private life, when you have both to deal with, sometimes it is not easy. For everybody, and for me. Sometimes, you're not lucky. I've had many years with no luck. My foot, and this year my boyfriend, because first he was sick, and it makes it hard for my heart, hard to breathe. We had been together, walking together on the tour and in life.
Now I know that I have to have more fun on the court, and to come back and win a lot of matches on the tour to come back to my best ranking, and maybe better. And to win some tournaments--why not a Grand Slam one time? I hope so, I would like that, of course. It's a dream for every player, to win a Grand Slam. We will see, I'll do my best. Maybe I'll have a little more luck in my life.
SBN: You've had an incredible amount of bad luck, obviously, but it seems like you are playing really well right now. Your match yesterday, against Elena Baltacha, was one of the best matches I've ever seen you play. And you seemed to be playing very confidently, only losing one point on second serve return in that second set. Do you think your confidence is back?
Virginie Razzano: Yes, I agree with that. I've played two matches, and two great matches. The court surface here is nice for my game, because it's very fast. The weather is difficult for me, but its the same for everybody. I'm not used to the humidity, but it's okay. I'm going on the court to win, to try, and my mentality is to go far as possible. Yes, I'm happy with my game here. I'm feeling a good sensation with my tennis, and I think I can do even more at this tournament and others.
SBN: I know it's been a tough few months, but I was on the balcony here watching your match, and a bunch of other players were watching as well, saying how strong and resilient they thought you were, after all the things you've been through here. Have you gotten a lot of support from other players in the last few months?
Virginie Razzano: Yes, of course. I have had many players come see me, saying that they're so sorry for me, and for my boyfriend. They know it's a difficult moment, and it will take a long time to recover, mentally. It's difficult for me every day, but when I go on the court I try to play for him, and for me. I have many friends to support me. I have my French team, and also the foreign players who come to me. They all say they are so sorry, and they are with me, and that I am strong to continue my tennis.
SBN: Does playing tennis make it easier? Is it easier to feel okay when you're at a tournament, playing and practicing every day?
Virginie Razzano: It is a little more easy now, because I have to focus only on me. Not only on me (laughs), but when I am here I don't have to worry about home. It's the same life for everybody. It's easier not to worry when you have all of your head in tennis. It's a little bit more easy to not have a complicated life, because I would like to come back to my best ranking, and to go far, and be what I can be. Because I have a good game, and a good physical body, and maybe I will get a good result again.
SBN: After everything you've been through, both this year and last year, what would it mean for you to be able to come through and win a tournament, even as soon as this Sunday?
Virginie Razzano: If I win? (laughs) For me, if it's possible to win, if I win, it's a good homage to Stephane, from me. First for him. And then for me, it's consolation. It's tough. But I do my job, and I do my best everyday, for practice and for matches. If I win this week (laughs), if I win this tournament of course I'm very happy, and I think it's merited. I try my best to play through all this.
SBN: Bonne chance.
Virginie Razzano: Thank you. (laughs)
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