Gonzalo López has been the coach of the best Valencian tennis player of all time, throughout his life, Anabel Medina, who retired in 2016 after her fourth Olympic Games, Rio 2016, as a couple of Arantxa Parra in doubles, and who for three years has been the captain of the Spanish Federation Cup team and director of the ITF women’s tournament BBVA Open Ciudad Valencia that hosts the CT Valencia. And also a coach, as Roland Garros won as the coach of Jelena Ostapenko.
Gonzalo López, since 2017 works in Paris, in Roland Garros, for the French Tennis Federation, polishing his young promises, the latest Diane Parry, which she leads after achieving the number one position in the junior world in 2019. Below are some of the questions from this video interview in which she talks about the situation in Roland Garros for the dispute of the tournament in September, of Valencian men’s and women’s tennis , and how he lived the confinement and the return to work in France a few weeks ago, among many other things.
What is a Valencian doing working for the French Federation?
When Medina retired from singles, Pauline Parementier, a French player who returned to the circuit after being injured, asked me if I could attend to her, I spoke with Arantxa and Anabel, who were playing doubles, we agreed, and that’s where my relationship with French tennis began, which I knew because my father worked in Paris, my brothers were born there, and I have family and house there. When I left him with her, The French Federation liked my work and asked me to join the national center to work with young players under the age of 18, as I did in the Valencian Federation with Anabel and all those 15 and 16-year-old girls, juniors, and then continue with them in professional tennis, we did a very good job. Now Diane Parry, having finished number one in the junior world in 2019, has asked the Federation to continue with her in the older group because they believe that I should continue with her a few more years.
How has confinement happened?
He caught me at Indian Wells like everyone else. She is number one junior and French, and they gave her a wildcard for the preview. I scheduled to play some challenger tournaments that made semifinals, and then others, and I was going to play in Indian Wells. (The one that finishes number one in the world has the right to 4 wildcards given by the ITF to enter tournaments of 100 and 80,000 challengers, we were going to play one in Emilio’s academy and he caught us there). We came back, I spent two months in Alzira, where we could do a very interesting thing. We have a person hired for statistics, any French player has access to statistics of each rival, and with this person we stayed twice a week for mock games and statistics. Parry chose a player, once Carla Suárez, to take different things, she plays backhand. In confinement we work a lot. In France people could go out for an hour a day, which in Spain they could not. That helps an athlete a lot, apart from the weights, and gymnastics, being able to go out for an hour to run gives you a lot of physical level. In Spain people had to invent what to do. It has been able to work well. When I arrived I found it well. She also has influences, and a company had a track in a private facility, and with her brother who does not play bad, she was also going to train sometime. Here you can only visualize, comparisons, but to keep you running and gesturing on a small pediment, noticing the ball even for 15 minutes a day always helps you.
How was your return to work in Paris?
When they saw here that it was possible to start, I spoke with the Federation to return the week of 11 and 12, and they told me that on the 18 we started, it was only opening in stages as in Spain. I called the French consulate in Valencia, and they told me that even if I had an employment contract, I had to have a letter from the Federation demanding that I return to my job. There was only a plane in Madrid, on the 19th I was able to have a train that connected me to the plane. I showed the certificate at the airport, and when I got on the plane the civil guard asked me for the certificate again, and in Paris I only went inside with my ID. I took the test before traveling, and we started training at Roland Garros, where the medical service for the tournament had moved there because the national center left for residence and other things. The area behind Roland Garros, Suzanne Lendglen, seven tracks with changing rooms and everything, no works have been touched, we are working there. Now on hard indoor and outdoor tracks of the national center, 5 minutes walk from Roland Garros, where we have offices and organization and hard tracks.
How is the day to day in Roland Garros in this de-escalation?
The day to day to play at Roland Garros I see very well. There are three months left of the hottest time, which will help in everything. And the audience will be limited, I think there will be an audience. The central tracks if there are 14,000 will say 5,000 or 6,000 and the other 10,000, then 3,000 or 4,000. Depending on how the capacity goes, the government will mark it. I tell you that there will be a tournament, besides it looks, it feels, we are working every day well. The only problem I see is that due to the US Open the circuit has been determined to start there and I think it is a mistake. If you see how the coronavirus is in the world, we confined ourselves before and see how everything has gone at the level of the dead. Here it is quite hot and you can move easily, not like the US, which is a 4-hour trip by plane between many cities. From my point of view, it would be much easier to start in Europe than in the US, but the US Open does not give up. That is the problem tennis players see. Start in a city like New York, which has had more sick and dead than Spain, just the city. It is difficult to start there. I think Paris will be fine, but spectators depending on what the government orders. The borders will be opened and with the car the people around will move. The tennis player has to work. If there is an audience, better, and if not without an audience.
What measures have been applied to stop the spread of the virus?
When we arrived the measurements were very elastic. We all had the tests and then a medical examination, because they all came from being unemployed for a few months, no matter how much they did what the physios told them to do. We took two cans of balls, and one put his green and the other black, and each one only touched his, and the one that was not his passed it with the racket and did not touch it with his hand. You had to be wearing a mask, trainers, too, now they have understood that two meters away talking is not necessary. There may be two coaches with their player, and in the center we are all wearing a mask. There are cans to disinfect your banks and everything. To go to the residence, there is an area upstairs and another to go down, only one person in an elevator, the rooms have been completely disinfected with a government certificate € It is a country very well accustomed to these things and very disciplined.
Many looked down on Roland Garros when he changed dates
At first they criticized him, but the President did one thing well. If there is only one possibility to do it, it is in September. And then he has negotiated. I know that the ATP and the WTA could be angry, but they realize that with the endowment of the money that Roland Garros gives, it is essential to collect that money to enter the table. It is logical that the players defend it. And then maybe they give up doing Paris-Bercy, Masters 1000 of the French Federation. And Madrid and Rome are great.
Do Nadal and the Spanish have the advantage of getting to know clay better?
If there is only going to be one or two grand slams, making it Roland Garros for Spain is very good. It will be a year that there will be a higher percentage of dirt tournaments than a hard court, and also if there is Rome and Madrid … Rafa is always the favorite, of course, but you have to see how he gets there. Djokovic has improved a lot on the ground. It will depend on how each one is, on pace, how the break has affected, Federer has already said that he does not play more this year. Favorites are Rafa, Djokovic, and Thiem.
Last weekend tennis returned to Benitatxell
I saw it, I found it interesting to start playing. Here in France they are waiting to see if it will start in August in the US and there are tournaments on hard courts. In girls it was intended to start in Charleston and Palermo, on the ground, but the French Federation is waiting because it is going to do three tournaments with the twelve best men and women players, in the south of France, in three clubs that you can stay residing in a hotel without moving. And Spain prepares something similar in the month of July. Here if everything goes well it will be from July 6. There are also series of exhibition games three days a week, Parry and I will be a few days in the south of France, which also give them money to win. And what happened on July 6 are national tournaments like before, which go up in value because the good guys play.
Anabel Medina as coach
I have a daily relationship with Medina if he needs anything. She is like my oldest daughter, she is part of my family in every family event. My daughters love her very much. I follow her a lot, not because she was a super player and super captain, it is her third year and the players are delighted. A year ago she helped Muguruza without charging a penny for being a captain, now she is helping Sorribes who is without a coach, she is a dear person. And take a player like Ostapenko, who was 60 in the world, and she always liked how we worked, Ostapenko always wanted to train with Anabel, and in Valencia training the two, when she only played doubles, she helped her and when she retired her mother told her that picked up, and that was when Roland Garros won.
Anabel Medina without that injury in Australia …
Anabel reached 15 in the world for singles and 3 for doubles, but with just 19 years of age she was 40 and peak of the world, the tendon breaks in Australia, which remained all year. After the injury of a year and a half, she does not say it but she was a little touched, she broke badly, she played a lot with pain, she lost a lot. There are people after a serious knee or hip injury have not played again, see Andy Murray. Obviously it would have clearly been in the top ten in the world. She, who was not yet fully done, breaks her knee, is a little touched, and ends up being 15 singles and 3 doubles, without that injury she would have been safe in the top ten in the world, by statistics.
He has brought Anabel Medina, Arantxa Parra and Silvia Soler
From Valencia are the three that have been in the top 50, some little like Arantxa and Silvia. When we finished the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Arantxa hugged me tight, she began to cry, she said thank you very much. I don’t know if there was never any courage in Valencia, but they were two Valencian players and a Valencian coach, who played the Olympic Games; With the bad luck that Anabel was injured in Wimbledon on the shoulder, and could not be one hundred percent, but it was among the eight best in the world, not in the best conditions because she stopped two months of training, but she had earned it, and It was a very beautiful moment, because it was the two Valencians, and then I helped Silvia. A huge memory. Then I trained the best foreign players, with whom they have a very good relationship, like Dulgheru, 26, and Parmentier, 40 and little, but on a personal level they are my three home players and I talk to them a lot.
Future of Valencian tennis
In girls in Valencia we have Sara Sorribes, and at the state level Paula Badosa, and Aliana Bolsova, these three are around 21-22 and 23 years old is the best we have. They are not Anabel or Vivi or Suárez or Arantxa or Conchita, but it is necessary to see if they are made, although at the age of Anabel and others they are far away. Anabel returns at 22 and is again in the top 50, with two years off. It is not the best time, but you have to keep working for them to come out. As boys, Carlos Taberner has always been at Tenisval, and I follow Pedro because he is from Alzira, I know his parents and have seen him play since he was a child. Taberner has had very bad luck with injuries, and Pedro had started amazingly this year to go straight into the 100, and see how this break affects him.