March 6, 2009

Nathalie Dechy

(info about Nathalie Dechy)

Chocolate, wine and books

Thomas Kieller

Nathalie Dechy: Chasing a ball.

Since 1994, Nathalie plays on the tennis courts of the WTA professional tour. Energetic and with a fighting spirit, the French woman affirms her game mostly on the back line of the court and her vigorous exchanges demonstrate that she is always in good shape. Regular on the tour, she has participated at more than 50 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. She has triumphed in two of them, both times at the US Open, in 2006 and 2007 in doubles. Living also the frenzy of great tournaments, she has represented the colors of France at two Olympic Games and nine times at the Fed Cup. Her great victories in singles and doubles prove that she is a fearsome player. No doubt that she will continue on this track by giving very lively moments such as she did against Hingis, Seles and Ivanovic. She’s a player that the ardent supporters of tennis appreciate for the quality of her game and proven determination.

The interview took place on October 29, 2008 at 13:50 in the press conference room of the Challenge Bell tennis tournament of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Quebec City, Canada. It was done in French.

Prelude – During a day where blustery snow falls on Quebec City and that all the roads are hardly practicable, Nathalie as far as she is concerned is relaxed. That day, no match appears on her program. However, she takes 20 minutes of her time to discuss with me about her passions which bring joy to her life far away from the tennis courts.

Rhythm of life of a tennis player

Thomas Kieller: We can easily affirm that the rhythm of life of a tennis player is somewhat frantic. The adjective frantic may be to a strong word…

Nathalie Dechy (while smiling): No, the word frantic is quite appropriate.

Thomas: Oh yes! Besides, in 2008, you participated in 20 tournaments and you played around 40 matches. Moreover, you train regularly and you travel a lot. For you, this rhythm of life can it be tiring?

Nathalie: At the beginning of the 2008 season and within the space of three months, I have travelled a lot. I went to Australia at the start of the season. After this tournament, I went to China for the Fed Cup while representing France. The day after the Fed Cup, there was a tournament in Paris that I necessarily had to play. So, I went to France and the next day I was playing a match. After that, I took the road from Paris to Antwerp, Belgium. I took the plane ten days after for Qatar because there was a tournament in Doha. Two days after that, I was flying to the United States and my first stop there was for the tournament in Indian Wells on the west coast near Los Angeles. The following tournament was in Miami. Afterwards, I went back to Paris for three days before leaving for Tokyo, one more time for the Fed Cup. This time, we were playing against Japan. This was the beginning of the 2008 season. April arrived and I had the impression that I went around the world three times. In fact, not only I was travelling a lot, but my results were not so good. I think that both were linked together. At this moment, I said to myself that I should slow down the rhythm of the tournaments and make some choices even if it is not that easy in order to start back on the right foot.

Thomas: Of course, travelling is tiring. What about the matches?

Nathalie: Yes, it is certain that the tournaments are tiring, but I think that the difficult aspects for a tennis player compared to other sports are all the time-lags, the change of the surface of the tennis court and the difference of weather while traveling. For example, when I travelled from Australia to China, there was a difference of forty degrees! I think that after a while the body does not understand what is happening. So, that is the tough part which can provoke injuries rather than the match itself because we are trained for the games.

Thomas: However, you know well the situation; you are a professional player since 1994. What do you do on the aspect of physical condition in order to stay in good form?

Nathalie: I think that it changes with the years, because when one is younger one must train a lot and must build a good base. I have arrived at a period where I am trying more to stay in good health while trying also to keep my freshness. I will be 30 years old in a few months. Of course, I do not recuperate at 30 years old as well as at 20. So, I had to adapt my training by doing the same things but in a lesser quantity.

Thomas: You don’t have the same level of energy as at the start of your career?

Nathalie: The energy, I have it, but the difference is more concerning recuperation. It is more difficult to put back to back heavy days of work compared to when I was 15 or 20 years old.

Thomas: With your natural fighting spirit, I suppose that you try all the time to push your limits and that you are always going for the win. Do you feel a continuous pressure to perform in order to improve your ranking or to accumulate more money.

Nathalie: I always feel the pressure when I am in the first round of a tournament or when I reach a final. There is always some tension in those types of matches. As for me, I never played for money. I have the chance to be in a sport that I can live on. Nevertheless, money never added pressure to my game. It is more the desire to win that has brought some. Besides, one person needs to have the desire of achieving good results in order to win matches.

Nathalie’s passion: chocolate, wine and books

Thomas: In order to be at your ease on the court, you obviously take some time to relax in your free time. You enjoy in your way the different moments of life; for one, I have heard that you appreciate quite a lot chocolate. Could you elaborate on that matter?

Nathalie: Yes, I like chocolate and above all dark chocolate. Because I am regularly in Belgium, I can have a very good variety of great chocolates. I travel often with my little chocolate bars. For me, it’s a good dessert. It is good for your health and besides eating dark chocolate is so pleasant for the taste buds…

Thomas: Ha! I know that a tennis player must keep an eye on her diet. And yet, chocolate, although nutritive, brings its share of calories. So, how do you do to reach both sides?

Nathalie (says while smiling): Well precisely, dark chocolate is not that calorific compared to the chocolate milk bars or the food of that type. One must say also that we should eat it with moderation. In the evening, for example, I only take two squares or something like that. In fact, I never went through an entire chocolate box because I never had that need.

Thomas (laughs while hearing Nathalie’s last response): Among the Belgian classics such as Marcolini, Godiva and Léonidas, do you have a master chocolate-maker in Tournai, Belgium where you live that offers you delicious discoveries?

Nathalie: I have just such a place near my home, a chocolate-maker who works really well. On the Grand Place, not far from my residence, there is also a chocolate shop named Neuhaus where they make great chocolate. So, I alternate between these two.

Thomas: You have talked about dark chocolate bars… Do you have a weakness for other sweet delicacies such as filled chocolate or chocolate truffles?

Nathalie (with an absolute certainty and with a big smile): No, I am really fond of dark chocolate.

Thomas: I know that you appreciate also wine, it might be your French side. What do you like in wine?

Nathalie: Well, my husband enjoys wine a lot and one thing leading to another I discovered wine with him. What I prefer about wine is to visit vineyards. We have discovered many regions of France which are quite different one from the other. We went also for our honeymoon to South Africa where we saw fabulous areas while visiting cellars and vineyards. For the time being, it is more this aspect that attracts me rather than drinking wine. Since I was doing a tournament in Strasbourg, we took the time to visit cellars in Alsace. We went also for our holidays in the bord de Laix for the same reasons. I remember that we have also visited vineyards in Gold Coast, Australia and there we talked with the producers. It’s all that surrounds the production of wine that I really enjoy. I have seen splendid regions because of wine. Of course, afterwards there is a wine-tasting session but like chocolate I do it with moderation. I have the chance to be able to stop without effort. Generally, I drink a glass and I like it.

Thomas: And for a tennis player, wine is considered good for health?

Nathalie (while laughing): In France, one says that to drink a glass of wine per day is really good for your health. I don’t know if the scientists are giving us an excuse to drink, but I know that after a long day or a big match, it is relaxing for me. In a way, to drink a glass of wine or a glass of beer, it can be enjoyable.

Thomas: Do you appreciate more beer than wine?

Nathalie: Actually, beer as well as wine allows some moments to share anecdotes or some laughs. It is probably why I like them both. I appreciate good suppers with friends or family while being served a good glass of beer or wine.

Thomas: On another subject, you mentioned that you travel a lot for tennis and so you are continually in airports and planes. It is a necessary thing for your work. In these moments, do you appreciate reading a book?

Nathalie: Yes, I read a lot. When I leave for a tournament, I have always with me some books and magazines. Before matches, I rather read a magazine because I don’t want to fall too much into a story. I must keep my concentration for the match. However, in the evening or in a plane or when I travel, I really like to read.

Thomas: Do you find annoying the time you spend in airports and planes?

Nathalie (in a direct manner): I do not like too much to take the plane. It is truly an inconvenience of my job because I’m there so often. If I could use teletransportation, it would be so much better for me.

Thomas: Reading books, is it something that allows you to free your mind?

Nathalie: Yes, I think so. It is something that I started when I stopped going to school. Before, I did not have time to do so because I was studying a lot. When I became a professional tennis player, there was a lack at that level. Consequently, I really started to read a lot in order to find my balance.

Thomas: Besides, do you like to visit libraries in order to find your next book?

Nathalie: Yes, I like a lot beautiful or old libraries. I feel quite well there. Then, if we can have also good advice it is even better.

Thomas: So, to read a book, it is a way for you to balance things between your life as a tennis player (which demands a lot from your body and spirit during the stressful moments) and your daily life.

Nathalie: Yes, I think we need moments to relax. If I may say, I have a demanding life, so, these are my moments to take a break in order to start back again well.

Last words

Thomas: Thus, when you arrive on the court in a relaxed manner, you always offer an exciting style for the supporters…

Nathalie: I always try do give the best of myself. In fact, I don’t think too much about the people around me during a match. Every time I played for the sake of the crowd, my concentration was spreading too much. So, I don’t try to do too much. I simply give the best of myself and show the pleasure I have when I play tennis. That way, the people who watch me play can like it.

Thomas: Thank you Nathalie!