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Beyond the Baseline

Best quotes from French Open, Part II

Serena Williams Serena Williams hasn't lacked for intensity at the French Open. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are more of our favorite quotes from the French Open. For Part I, click here.

• If you've been watching Serena Williams lately, it's hard not to notice her intensity, bordering on desperation, after losing points, regardless of the scoreline. "Sascha [Bajin, her hitting partner] always tells me I get too intense sometimes. He tells me, 'You have to relax. You've won the first set, you're up. Why do you get so angry at one shot?' I'm like, 'You know what? I don't know.'"

 Maria Sharapova disagrees with her father's belief that she's a born champion. "Well, he's my father. He thinks I can be beat Rafael Nadal on clay," she said after her fourth-round win. "Everyone say that I'm so focused on the court and people ask me why and how and [if] you're born with it or not. And to be clear, I don't really know if you are. I think it's something that you learn."

• Those one-handed backhands that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga decides to hit on the run? Don't look at coach Roger Rasheed. "To be honest, he hates it when I play one single backhand," Tsonga said.

• You can never say Tsonga is delusional. "I have been working on my backhand since I was the age of 5," he said. "And it's a disaster, my backhand, so I'm working on it."

 Tsonga is confident going into his semifinal clash with David Ferrer. You would too if you just bounced Roger Federer in straight sets. "I feel I'm able to beat him because I believe I have the weapons for that," the Frenchman said. "I have more endurance now. I'm more consistent. I hit harder than he does, and normally I'm supposed to serve a lot better than him."

 Novak Djokovic spoke poignantly and philosophically about the death of his first tennis coach, Jelena Gencic, who passed away Saturday in Belgrade. "You know, life gives you things, takes away close people in your life, and Jelena was my first coach, like my second mother," he said after his fourth-round victory.  "She taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character today, and I have nicest memories of her.

"She worked with kids between 5 and 6 years to 12, 13 years old, and she was dedicating all her life to that generation and to tennis.  She never got married, she never had kids, so tennis was all she had in life. She was 77 years old, and before she passed away two days ago, last week she was giving lessons to kids. So she didn't really care about the nature of the illness. She had the breast cancer. She survived that. She's one of the most incredible people I ever knew.

"She knew exactly [how] to recognize the potential of the tennis players.  That's why she, for me, is the best coach for that young generation that I ever met in my life. People underestimate the importance for professional tennis players [the] early ages when you're 4, 5 years old to when you're 14.  This is when you're developing all your abilities.  It's when [it's] important to have somebody so knowledgeable."

 Djokovic visited Gencic before coming to Paris and she told him to focus his energy on winning Roland Garros. "I feel even more responsible now to go all the way in this tournament," he said. "I want to do it for her."

• As for whether Djokovic believes a Roland Garros title is in the cards: "I believe this destiny. I believe things are happening for a reason. But you can control your own destiny. That's also what I believe in."

 Roger Federer was understandably disappointed after his loss to Tsonga. "If you lose in five sets or straight sets or if you play good or bad, at the end of the day you're out of the tournament," Federer said. "That, to me, is what matters really. I know some people say I only care about how I play and not about the result.  I mean, I care more about the result than how I played, to be honest, because it gives me another opportunity to play well in the next match. And today I didn't do that, so I'm sent packing home."

• Federer doesn't need anyone's help getting over the loss as he shifts to the grass. "I  don't need anything special or anybody special," the 17-time major champion said. "I'm old enough. I'm a big guy. I'm no longer a baby. Nobody."

Nicolas Almagro Nicolas Almagro suffered another heartbreaking defeat at a major. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

• Nicolas Almagro lost to Tommy Robredo in five sets in the fourth round. This was the second major in a row in which Almagro lost after building a two-set lead, as he also couldn't prevent David Ferrer from rallying in the Australian Open quarterfinals. He told Spanish reporters that the loss to Robredo made for the hardest day of his life. "Yes, in all likelihood," Almagro said. "It is clear that it's difficult how to explain to you how I feel. It's true that I'm affected by this. I don't know what adjective to use.

"At the same time, I feel privileged to have arrived up until this point, to have the life that I lead, to have my team around me that has blind confidence in me, my family that supports me right up to the hilt. I think sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  That's sport, and you have to accept that."

• Rafael Nadal says he always feels nerves during a match, but then he reminds himself the world isn't going to end because of a single sporting event. "Sometimes [the pressure is] stupid because we are very nervous for the things that means a lot for us, but at the end life has much more important things than win or lose a tennis match or a match in any sport," he said. "So when you get calm and you have the chance to think about all of this, sometimes you feel very stupid feeling this pressure, this nervous at the end for a tennis match. Not gonna change your life."

• Nadal dismisses the notion that he's a better player than Federer simply because he leads their series 20-10. The Spaniard says it'd be "arrogant" and "stupid" of him to think that, given Federer's overall body of work. "I am happy about what I achieved," Nadal said. "I am happy about what I am winning. But Roger has better numbers than me, and that's the real thing. Nobody has more Grand Slams than him. He's the guy with more weeks in the history in the No. 1 [ranking]. So these kind of records say that he's the best of the history. Numbers are for that."

• Bethanie Mattek-Sands practiced with Williams before the French Open. "She was actually pretty relaxed," Mattek-Sands said. "We grinded for about two hours. At the beginning, she asked what I wanted to do. I said, 'Hey, if you want to play points ...'  She's like, 'No, I don't play points in practice. I get too pissed.' I said, 'All right.' If that's an indication she was ready for matches, then maybe that was a good one."

• Alabama native Jamie Hampton says moving away from home to train in Boca Raton, Fla., full time finally forced her to grow up. "Before, living with my parents -- my mom -- I was pretty sheltered as a kid," she said. "My mom was doing everything for me -- cooking, laundry, everything. When I was little, she used to string my rackets as well. All of that I have to do on my own. I have to go to the grocery store by myself. Scary thought, I know. When I went [to Boca], I made it a point that I have to do everything by myself. I have to grow up. I had to make that decision pretty quickly."

• For Hampton, training in Florida alongside some of the younger Americans, such as Madison Keys, has helped motivate her. "They all piss me off when they're working harder than me," Hampton said.

• Sloane Stephens gets bored during rain delays. "You literally have nothing to do," she said. "Should I eat? Do cartwheels? You have no idea. Last week in Brussels I had my nails done, and went and made chocolate. Then I played a match on the same day. Obviously, the nails and chocolate weren't a good combination."

• Nails and chocolate weren't a good combination, but Stephens says she's having a blast being 20 and traveling the world. "I don't live in the real world, so I don't know," Stephens said. "But hopefully it never stops. I mean, there are no other 20-years-olds like me. Might be a few, like Miley Cyrus or something, but other than that I'm pretty much riding solo on this train."

• Two funny exchanges during Federer's interview after beating Gilles Simon in the fourth round.

Q. You're looking very fresh. Actually, doesn't look like you played five sets.

Federer: Thank you. You look great, too. (Laughter.)

Q. Thanks.

Federer: For watching a match of five sets. Did you take a shower? (Laughter.)

---

Q. They already asked you about your physical, and we were worried about your back. I want to know, how is your back, and if it hurts, I could do a massage because we want to see you at the finals.

Federer: Right, right. No, my back is good. I'm happy it's good so you don't have to touch me. (Laughter.) Good to see you again.

Tommy Haas, 35, made the French Open quarterfinals for the first time, the latest milestone in his comeback from injuries. "There's never a guarantee, but at the same time if you work hard, usually it pays off," he said. "Looking back two years ago, it was one of my first matches after 14, 15 months with no play after my hip surgery, I was happy to have won a set that match and to have lasted that long because I was still maybe not in the right physical state yet to be playing. But I wanted to get back and see who I am, and then it took me a really long time to sort of feel comfortable on the court again.

"But again, it's easy sometimes to throw in the towel and say, 'I'm done. I have achieved a lot of things, I don't really have to worry so much financially and I can live a good life.' But at the same time, maybe there was something in me still that said, 'You know what? I can maybe still do something.' I'm really happy I made that choice."

Haas had a laundry snafu before his fourth-round match. "I dropped off my laundry two days ago after the [John] Isner match [in the third round]," Haas said. "I know it was late. But today, first match at 11, I showed up in the locker room and I asked for my physio to get my laundry. He comes back and says, 'It won't be here till 2.' So then I was like, 'OK, that's great.' So somebody had to go back to the hotel and bring the other four, five shirts I left there. They came in time before the match. I was happy to have them. The last thing I was worried about is if  I was color matching or not."

• Williams confesses a weakness for macarons, chips and chocolate. So how the heck does she stay so fit? "I know, right?" Serena said. "I work out pretty hard and I do a lot of physio stuff, physical stuff. And when I do eat these things, I only eat like one or two, literally, and I throw the rest away. So that's the key."

Williams has a French coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, she has an apartment in France and she's even shown off her improved French skills during interviews at Roland Garros. But she hasn't fully integrated yet. "Whenever we go to a restaurant," Williams said, "I'm like, 'Where's the food? Now, now, now.' And when you come to Europe, everything is slower and, like, more family based. It could be better. So it's just we have to slow down and take a deep breath. It's kind of funny how different the cultures are. Just completely opposite."

Stephens was asked what she would go back and change between the Australian Open and now. "That boys weren't so stupid."

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