On Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November, the French women's tennis team defeated Australia in Perth, in the Fed Cup final. At 26, it is the second that is about to play Caroline Garcia, after the lost, in 2016, against the Czech Republic. Under the captaincy of Amelie Mauresmo, the Lyonnaise had brought two points in singles, bowing with Kristina Mladenovic in the double decisive. The French number one of the time had then decided to focus for two years on his career. A decision badly experienced by some of his comrades, who had multiplied spades and critics. The episode left traces, but the captain, Julien Benneteau, convinced Garcia to return to the team.
You have had a season well below your expectations. This final, is it a way to save it?
Of course, on an individual level, my season was mostly disappointing, there were more low than high. The Fed Cup, I always said it was part of my goals to win. This year, we once again have the opportunity to pick up the trophy. It would bring me a lot of happiness, but it will not save my individual season, it's two separate things. If the captain selects me in singles, I will have to play games of very high level, much better than the ones I played this year.
How can we ignore our results and focus on such a deadline?
These are two very different competitions. There, we train and play for a team, we spend moments together. The Fed Cup is a historic competition in tennis, you play for your country. It's pretty easy to separate things. My season ended almost a month ago, I had the time to ask myself, to change my mind and to go back to training for this final. I do not look back, I live in the present moment.
Do you think a victory could serve as a stepping stone or a click for the future?
It would add a very important line to my list, it's a competition that is hard to win. Obviously, it would bring confidence, but it's not because I win it or win it that I'm going to have a good season or a bad season behind it.
Historically, it has always been rather successful, how do you explain it?
It is true that I have a rather positive balance in this competition (17 wins, including 11 singles, 6 losses since his first participation in 2013). We have a captain who is on the bench all the time, at the change of side he can refocus you a bit, giving you two-three tactical and technical points that you have not felt. And then, the atmosphere is different, you wear the shirt of the team of France …
You argue your 2e final in three years. In 2016, against the Czechs, you had not gone far …
Yes, it was a little hard to digest because we were ultraoutsiders and, finally, we are at 2 everywhere before the double decisive. I won my two singles matches, Kristina (Mladenovic) did not really go far on the first day, with an incredible scenario match (3-6, 6-4, 16-14 against Karoline Pliskova), it was almost touching, this cup … I was a little shared, I had very good games, it gave me confidence and showed that I could beat the best, but, finally, I was very disappointed to not to go to the end with the girls.
Looking back, what did you miss?
It was played a hair, on the double we could have been a little more lucid, play a little more calmly, but to be at 2-2, it was a little unexpected. It was an experience on the management of a final. We know that a weekend is long, favorites or outsiders, everyone can produce his best tennis, even girls you do not know too much. You have to be very humble and fight from the first point of Saturday to the last point of Sunday.
What motivated your return to the team after two years of absence?
First, the fact that the Fed Cup is always is one of my goals. Then, the captain's speech pleased me, he found interesting words. And then, I felt physically and mentally ready to come back because there were various things that were complicated and difficult to swallow … I said I wanted to take a break because, physically, it was complicated for me this period. This year, I felt better to do both head-on (the circuit and the Fed Cup).
And considering what had happened, I had to be able to balance things out and emotionally I feel solid to handle all that, which I did not feel capable the previous year.
Today, relations have normalized in the team?
Yes, they are standardized, there is a lot of respect between each of us, we are very professional. After, what happened, it will always be a little bit engraved in memory, but, on the weeks of Fed Cup, we get to share things. Sometimes you learn from your mistakes, everyone puts theirs. There is a good atmosphere, we work well together in the field, at the gym, etc. We all have a common goal.
On paper, Australians are favorites at home, what makes you believe in your chances?
Already, we have a solid team in the ranking, we are all capable of beating girls who are Top 10, we already had the experience of a final, which is not negligible. In doubles, we had very good results with Kristina. We played the Masters, we were world number one. trade wind (Horn), in doubles, is also solid. We have several strings to our bow. To be in Australia and to have everyone against us, it tightens our bonds.
This is the last time you play the Fed Cup in this format, because in 2020, on the model of the new version of the Davis Cup, it will be played over a week. Do you regret it?
The WTA season is long and intense, it has evolved a lot compared to when the Fed Cup was created, we do not have the same calendar at the time. She could not stay in her current format, it needed change. All the changes are difficult, is it the right one? I do not know, but it's good that they have taken their responsibility trying to change something and maybe as there are other adjustments.