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Open Court

Tennis in Monaco

Aired April 26, 2012 - 12:30   ET


PAT CASH, CNNI:: We're on top of the tennis world on this edition of "Open Court."

We're coming to you from Monaco on the French Riviera. Home to the Monte Carlo Masters and Formula One Grand Prix. Prince Albert is the Head of State here. But some of these subjects include high ranking members of tennis nobility.

Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka are among the big names who live in the world's second smallest independent states. Coming up on this show, focused and feisty, Victoria Azarenka is determined to win every match.

Olympic Gold, or Wimbledon?


CASH: The world's number one serves up something special only for "Open Court." Plus one more question please. We follow Novak Djokovic during a media blitz at the Monte Carlo Masters.

DJOKOVIC: To be honest, I like camera.

CASH: We'll show you how he deals with the demands of being the world number one.

We begin with the newly crowned queen of women's tennis. Victoria Azarenka started the year with no grand slam titles to her name, and the number three ranking spot. But by the time she left Melbourne in January, she had her first grand slam title, and the number one ranking spot.

Alex Thomas caught up with her here in Monaco

ALEX THOMAS, CNNI: Hard work is paying big dividends for Victoria Azarenka. She began the year by winning the Australian Open beating Maria Sharapova in straight sets.

AZARENKA: Well, I remember the exact point, you know, how - how it happened and everything. And I still remember the feeling I get from the shot that I don't think that people will ever forget. That's it. That's what you've been dreaming about since you were a little kid. (Inaudible) you woke up in the morning to go to breakfast, that's what you pictured.

THOMAS: Azarenka claimed the number one ranking in January. And then went on a 26 match winning streak that ended with a loss in Miami. She is now preparing for the busy summer season in Europe, French Open, Wimbledon, and then the Olympics.

What a year its been for you.


THOMAS: Are you struggling to believe how good its been? Because of course you've had so much hard work, maybe it's less surprising to you than it is to the rest of us.

AZARENKA: Well, you know, it's the best feeling when you know that all the work you've put in. Because honestly only you know how you felt, you know? Almost about to - to puke sometimes on the practice. But that's what you have to go through, you know, to get better.

THOMAS: The excitement and anticipation comes just 15 months after the champion considered quitting the sport all together. The first round loss in Dohar left her frustrated and confused.

AZARENKA: I have to enjoy. I have to have fun. But it's like a little bit in the theater if you don't - if you're not in a good mood. If you don't have your heart with it, you cannot really play your role. And I was just too worried about not being able to achieve something that I want to achieve. I was afraid to fail.

THOMAS: Victoria returned to Minsk, and gained strength from her family during this difficult time. Tennis has always been part of her life. She used to accompany her mother to work at the local tennis center.

AZARENKA: There was 40 kids, and we were so happy when we just hit one ball and wait for five minutes for another one. I think that's what I would wish I would see kids more with that desire, and that fire to go and being able to hit that one tennis ball. It - it was incredible.

THOMAS: Eventually Azarenka's family had to look outside Minsk to give the tennis protege a chance to make it on tour. With the help of some friends from Belarus, Victoria moved to the United States to train.

Are you impatient? You just wanted to succeed straight away?

AZARENKA: That too. And I - and I couldn't stand losing, you know? I - I cannot stand losing. Now too I can accept it better. But back then I just couldn't accept it. It was just not possible how somebody can beat me in any game. In soccer, football, or throwing the ball. It was just not - it was not acceptable. It couldn't happen.

THOMAS: Another area about which Victoria is passionate if a little less competitive is cooking. She invited me to join her at one of her favorite restaurants in the heart of Monaco

Victoria, tell us where we are.

AZARENKA: We are at my friend's restaurant. It's LaCremaller. My friend Serge (sp?) owns the restaurant. He's a chef here. And this is my regular and favorite place in Monaco

THOMAS: Yes. You do a lot of cooking yourself. And you and Serge (sp?) are going to show us some nice dishes.

AZARENKA: Yes. Serge (sp?) is going to give me another master class. So I can learn something different again.

THOMAS: This is great. I'm going to sit back, watch, hope to get to eat something. So I'll leave it to you. Serge (sp?) show us how it's done.

(SERGE): So today - today we'll be having fish. And we'll be doing some vegetables as a side dish. And a little bit of risotto - Parmesan risotto. All right let me show you how to not cut your fingers up. So you hold it - hold it down like this...


AZARENKA: Hey, this is my first time in the kitchen.

(SERGE): Yes. I'm just...


AZARENKA: And I still have all of my fingers.

(SERGE): Famous tennis players in my kitchen. That - that should attract more clients.

AZARENKA: I'm so into food. I love food, and cooking. And I - always reading about new recipes and, you know, different restaurants that I would like to - to visit. Being an athlete to have such a privilege, you know, to travel around the world, and taste different things - different cultures.

(SERGE): Okay. So now we've got our fish all wrapped up in mummies. The temperature is around...

AZARENKA: Two hundred?

(SERGE): ? two hundred degrees exactly. And put that on there. There we go. All right.

AZARENKA: And for about 20 minutes?

(SERGE): Twenty - 25 minutes.

THOMAS: Love or money.


THOMAS: Olympic gold or Wimbledon?

AZARENKA: Both. There is one answer. The one word answer.

THOMAS: Oh, you're quite right. Absolutely.

Victoria credits a lot of her success to the people around her. She travels with a full time team, coach, physio (sp?), fitness trainer, and manager. But it's the most recent addition to her coaching team which has caused heads to turn; 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

AZARENKA: Well, I felt like she could bring - she could help me in a way that, you know, my team probably never experienced before. And she had been through everything already. So that's extra, you know. Extra details or something could help, that's what we always look for. Something to do better.

THOMAS: How long do you think Amelie will stay with you? Is it just a - a short term thing to start with?

AZARENKA: Well, we're trying now. And by - you know, I think everybody is really happy right now. So we'll see how it goes.

(SERGE): So its been about 25 - 30 minutes now?


(SERGE): We've got our vegetables. We've got our fish. We've got a bit of rocket (sp?) salad for the decoration.

THOMAS: Are you big on your presentation? How important is that to you, Serge (sp?).

(SERGE): In a restaurant, it's crucial.

THOMAS: And presentation on the tennis court?


(SERGE): You've got to look good?


(SERGE): By playing good.

AZARENKA: Yes. For sure.

It's everything combined together that (inaudible) brings I think the best result. It's not something (inaudible) that is making (inaudible) right away. So - so you know the part of the training. The part (inaudible) so when you combine all these things together, it's kind of - in a funny way it's your own recipe. And you make your own dish. You know? That's what you crave on the court.

THOMAS: The cooking is done. Time for the tasting.

AZARENKA: Yes. That's my decoration. So viewers can judge by how it looks. And you can judge by how it tastes.

THOMAS: You're responsible for this. Well, the fish is just melting in the mouth. Compliments (inaudible). A world number one tennis player. A world number one chef. Serge (sp?) (inaudible), thank you very much.

(SERGE): Thank you.

AZARENKA: Thank you.

CASH: Novak Djokovic has won just about everything there is to win in tennis. The Australian Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, the Davis Cup for Serbia. Now he's set his sights on the one title that's alluded him. The French Open.

We had the opportunity to follow this Serbian superstar through a marathon of media duties to get a taste of what it's like to be the world's number one.

(ARZANI): The first interview that Novak did today was very important. He was of course that good. Seen by millions of people. But we had planned this weeks in advance. It was...

DJOKOVIC: It was a French television (inaudible). It was a show on French television. So it's one of the most important ones. And it's - it's great to be a part of their show.

I tried my French. It worked so I'm told. I have some learning programs that I am trying to keep up every day. The (inaudible) in media is always the most interesting one, you know? The most questions - most diversified questions about everything. And you know - because - especially because it's starting to (inaudible) the (inaudible) season.

Cause every tournament is a different tournament. (Inaudible) back on the Davis Cup. And it feels great definitely to - excited to be a part of Olympic games. See how the colors will look on Wimbledon course.

(ARZANI): We had a full room. Had people from Germany, the U.K. We had a couple of Japanese journalists here. People from Croatia and Serbia.

DJOKOVIC: Italian T.V. You know, there's French, there's locals here. So has different - different kinds of televisions. And I do prefer televisions more to be honest. I like camera.

(ARZANI): I like to try and control the interview so that, you know, we know who is going to be asking next question. Otherwise journalists have a tendency of speaking over each other. And so that we can control the length, the monitor, and direct the press conferences.

DJOKOVIC: I accept it as a part of my - part of my work, part of my life. But - but I do enjoy it as well. You know, I - I do try to take every question professionally. But with a little - little fun as well. They always try to come up with some different way of asking a question if it's the same meaning. But I have a good team around all - of people around me prepare me for - for some tricky ones.

CASH: Still to come on open court. Returning service - JankoTipsarevic is getting back to the game he loves.


CASH: Well, at the beginning of last year serve and play Janko Tipsarevic was ranked 49 in the world. By the year's end, he'd cracked the top ten. But not just content with competing at the elite level, Janko has found a way to give back to the game.

Janko Tipsarevic is making a name for himself in the tennis world.

(HARMAN): They see the sunglasses, and they see the tattoos, and they - they see the look in the eye. And he's got all these great things that - that make him such a fantastic personality for - for the sport. His rise up the rankings has been one of the truly finest stories of the - of the last couple of years.

TIPSAREVIC: I started last year as 49, and I'm number eight right now. The higher you go, it's - it's really much tougher to - to win. Especially now with the top four, you know, winning basically 70 percent of the tournaments out there. Don't get me wrong. I'm not happy with eight. I would like to improve as much as I can until the end of my career.

CASH: Tipsarevic started his ascent to the top with his friend and fellow Serbian, Novak Djokovic, (inaudible). This is the first time in the history of the ATP rankings that two Serbians have been in the top ten.

TIPSAREVIC: I like to call it like "Positive jealousy." You know, seeing Novak does what he - what he's doing on court kind of - most of it used to be a little bit better.

CASH: While competing with the game's elite, Tipsarevic is lending his expertise to the next generation project which pairs professional tennis players with juniors. He will serve as a mentor for four young players at four different tournaments this year. They'll practice together and go through fitness routines, and meet off court.

TIPSAREVIC: Helping out juniors and - and young players is something which I generally like doing. I like it because it's going to happen all throughout the year, and on different continents and different - different games.

CASH: At the Monte Carlo Masters Tipsarevic was paired with French junior, Armel Rancezot.

TIPSAREVIC: Like on the first date, if I can call it like that, I don't like to give to many advices and tips. It's mainly about, you know, getting to know, you know, who he is, how he likes playing. The only part of my professional career that I really regret is the transition from juniors to seniors, which is actually Armel's age right now. He's 18. This is the period which I wasn't focused enough, and I kind of struggled on the challenger (inaudible) for two years.

Getting tips from a top player carries a certain amount of weight. Even though there may be the same tips and advices that your father and coach are giving you at that time. But if you hear it from somebody else, it just has a little bit more weight.


RANCEZOT: (In French): I have learned a lot already off the court about the spirit you need to be one of the top players to have respect and be competitive.

TIPSAREVIC: I - I know this is first time for you. I was also 18, and I was feeling nervous playing with like big players, and everything. But don't let this feeling get in the way of you learning what you need to learn in tennis. In general, you don't generate power by muscles. You generate power by rotating your body. In your back hand what I was telling you, blocking your follow through here is completely your core.

Your serve - you have a good kick. But on the first serve I have a feeling sometimes that you are rushing too much. You go too fast. Trust me. I had the same problem. But I would like to see you taking more time on your first serve, you know? Even if it means bouncing the ball like Djokovic 50 times like this, and focused. Okay?

(Inaudible) the career is really, really short. You really need to try and use every minute of your every day to try and improve in every possible way that you can.

CASH: Tipsarevic plans to stay in touch with his protege and track his progress. He is hopeful that this advice will make it easier for Armel making the jump from the juniors to the pros. Still to come on open court, Daniela Hantuchova is in the driver's seat.


(CASH): Daniela Hantuchova reached number five in the world. She's one all four grand slam mixed doubles titles. And just a year ago played the match of her life beating Caroline Wozniacki at the French Open.

Known for her on court focus and off court fashion, Daniela invited us to Monaco Showed us why she won't be leaving any time soon.

HANTUCHOVA: Hi. I'm Daniela Hantuchova. And I'm from Slovakia. But for the last ten years I lived in Monaco And I'm going to show you my favorite place. I - I love being in Monaco because the conditions for me to train are fantastic. But at the same time I can come to places like this where we can just relax, have fun, and totally forget the tennis work. I - I wouldn't change it for anything else in the world.

It is a time when actually the season starts in Monaco And especially in the casino - gets really crowded. So let's go and explore it now. This is the area of the (inaudible) bar where we actually spend more time than in the gambling room. Much more fun and great to just hang around and have a drink, and have a relaxed evening.

I went to the musical school for like eight years just when I was in my grammar school. But I was already playing so much (inaudible). So there was not even a decision to make. Teacher was always complaining because I used to have the classes after I played tennis. So my hands were like all dirty from the clay and stuff. And she didn't want me to play tennis, because she thought it was not - not good for - for my piano. And I don't remember any more.

It's always like just little pieces I remember from, you know, when I used to play.

CASH: Are you happy?

HANTUCHOVA: Yes. Don't I look happy?

CASH: Yes.

HANTUCHOVA: I'm freezing, but I'm happy.

I - I love driving. Kind of like playing piano. I just - it just makes me so relaxed. We are just about to enter the tunnel, so you can stick it up.

CASH: Let's do that again.

HANTUCHOVA: Okay. There you go. And so this is one of the nicer views to Monaco Obviously being a tennis player we get to travel probably just two months of the year. Basically every week we have to be in a different place in the world. And I just sometimes wish I could spend more time in my home which - which is right here. And just being able to spend time with my family and friends which are all here. And just to be able sometimes to - to have more of a normal life.

So we're just about to enter the scene of Hotel de Paris, where is my favorite American bar. So before you enter the American bar you have to touch the leg of the horse, because apparently it's supposed to bring you good luck. So having the Olympics coming up very soon I think I will just be stuck with the horse for a while, and not move from here.

And so my tour in Monaco wouldn't be complete if you don't stop at the American bar where I like to come for a quiet evening (inaudible). In summer it is beautiful to have a drink here, and listen to the (inaudible) music which is right behind me. And just kind of have a quiet time with my friends, and have a little bit of fun.

All right. So thanks so much for joining me on the tour of Monaco And you've seen a couple of my favorite places around the city. Now it's time for me to train, so see you later.

CASH: For more tennis coverage or online exclusives, visit our website, CNN.COM/OPEN COURT. Now for next month's show we're heading up the road to Paris for our French Open preview. So until then, good bye from Monaco