Very interesting interview with Julien Jeanpierre, Vika's sparring partner.
"A good sparring partner is there to pass the buck"
INTERVIEW Julien Jeanpierre, 33, a former top player, is part-time, the training partner of the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, world number three. He explains the specifics of his role.
Julien Jeanpierre, 33, won the Australian Open juniors in 1998. This year, it has always been top of the rankings in his age category, "except the last week, where Federer topped me on the wire," said he. After peaking at 133rd in the world in 2004 when he reached the third round at Roland Garros (AFP Photo), it officially ended three years ago for a career made erratic by multiple injuries and an ankle that asked nothing but rest. Former coach Arnaud Clement, it is now sparring partner of the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, the third player in the world. He explains his job a little special.
How do you become a sparring partner as a champion Victoria Azarenka?
During the winter of 2011, I received a call from Sam Sumyk his coach. He was looking for a type of winter preparation. I do not know him personally but he had heard of me. We had to go to Dubai and spend Christmas, which is not necessarily interested in world-wide. I, as a former player with the habit of traveling, it does not bother me. So we did fifteen days preparation there before Australian Open and Melbourne, she won her first Grand Slam title and become World No. 1.
You can claim a share of this success?
No, I was just a training partner. But being immersed in their world it was a super experience and good training. I stopped playing some time ago, I was a young coach. Sam is a guy who knows what he's doing.
The experiment was extended?
In 2012, after the U.S. tour (spring, ed), Sam asked me if I was free for possibly 2-3 weeks of preparation on clay in Monaco. And it stopped there, Sam told me: "Sparring is not a real job. If you are available for us, that's great, but does not change your program for us. "And this year, we did it again: I did prepare in Monte Carlo, I accompanied them in Madrid and Rome, I am present at Roland Garros and will update later. I would say it to continue. I really take it for training, learning the craft of coach. I am in the heart of a team that attends the high level, hyperintéressant.
Why girls, at least the best, do they have sparring partners registrants unlike boys?
For several reasons. Unlike boys, girls do not like to practice against other girls. They do not want to disclose to a potential adversary. And then the first 4-5 have such a margin on the competition they can not find other girls who "challengent." Therefore they need to train with the boys. Serena Williams has the same sparring for years, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova also. They are usually former top players. While a boy always find someone to train.
What are the qualities of a good sparring?
Its availability, type of game, the quality of the ball. I was not an attacker but a solid player from the baseline, a metronome. The ideal training is repetition. I am able to put the ball 30 times in a row where Sam Sumyk wants me to put it: on the forehand, on the reverse, in the center, long, short ... But a good sparring must also be able to adapt. I am able to play on grass, out of my chain. Then it is a matter of feeling with the coach.
Not with the player?
I do not necessarily have much contact with her. She's teamed up with his coach, physical trainer, his physiotherapist, I'm here for the field, although, of course, my relationship with Victoria that are not professional. But in a staff like hers, everyone has a role and each remains in its place, this is what makes it work. That's the highest level.
How much time do you spend each day on the court with her?
In preparation period, it could be 4-5 hours. In the week before Roland Garros, it was 1:30-2am. On match days, I heated for 45 minutes and you can hit the ball a half-hour for the specific job afterwards.
We can live as sparring?
This is paid between 800 and 1200 euros per week
You've never played with a girl this level before, were you surprised?
The first time I was amazed by the quality of the ball. It plays very quickly. I can not take this job lightly, I must be 100% on the court.
And women's tennis, you have learned something?
I did not understand the scores of 6-1 type, 2-6, 6-0. I realized that the emotional side of mattered much girls: at the slightest provocation, it's panic on board. The big difference between the best and all the others is the ability to manage their emotions. Serena [Williams, ed] was a great master of everything that must be managed during a match. Victoria is able to fetch far in its resources.
You give your opinion about the training?
I do not take a decision. I'm just here to pass the buck. This is Sam who organizes everything. This does not prevent him from asking my opinion as a former player ... But the quality of good sparring partner that is able to adapt to the demands of the coach in terms of level, power, etc.. and know how to remain in place without pretending to be more important than it is.
This is not a little frustrating?
I feel no frustration. I have the level to do this job, in 2-3 years, I can be more follow the pace. Do it full-time? Why not, but it involves being on the tour 40 weeks a year. It's complicated.
If you were fighting a real match with Victoria Azarenka, you would fight?
Normally yes. A boy will always have the advantage of the power of service and to lift, forcing the girl to play over the shoulder. But playing Serena Williams on grass or hard, with its quality of service, it would probably be much more difficult than against another girl, even fourth or fifth World.