“Writing was my first love, before tennis”

Known to all when she was in the spotlight at tennis tournaments around the world, Alizé Cornet had, however, behind the scenes, an even more surprising passion: writing. At the age of 32, the French champion revealed his first novel on May 4, 2022. The Waltz of Days (by Flammarion), more than two years after the first book, a kind of autobiographical logbook nowadays, Without compromise. He told it was another franceinfo toy.

franceinfo: You present your book as a “family saga in honor of the women of my life”. What does that mean?

Alize Cornet: It’s never easy to “pitch” a 400-page book that took more than a year to write. But if I make a little summary, I can say that it was inspired by my mom’s childhood. It happened in the 1960s and 1970s, and it recounts the lives of these women in my life, my grandmother, my aunt and my mother. What they went through in those years, with a lot of twists and turns. And show how hard it was to liberate women at that time, what they had to face in order to survive. This is the true story of my family, inspired by real events, but, all the same, in a very fictionalized whole. The basic idea came to me because I had heard my mother talk about her childhood for many years.

By force, I wondered if it wouldn’t make an idea into a novel. When I decided to start this book, I didn’t know where I was going … because I didn’t have a job writing a novel! I started doing interviews with him very seriously in my little notebook, and there, I quoted the subject a bit. We also have to do a lot of research over the years, on Trente Glorieuses, not to make anachronisms … A lot of work. I can’t interview my aunt and my grandmother, who died a few years ago. So it’s pretty instinctive: if my mother still gives me a lot of details, for others, it’s in my head, it’s my imagination. Very tasty. I’m glad people finally found themselves in this story.

You talk about the joy of writing: what does writing mean to you?

Actually, writing is very natural for me. It’s something I always do. And yes, it’s also a bit of a risk for me. Once you give birth to a book like that, you face the gaze of others and the critics, the opinions. But I don’t know why, I already trust this book. Especially when I started getting feedback from Flammarion, which was great! It gave me confidence. And then, in my career as a tennis player, I got pretty used to watching others and pushing, and it started to make me neither hot nor cold. And in the end, I still feel even more pressure on a tennis court. This book is ultimately nothing but joy. I may be more confident in my abilities as a writer than in my abilities as a tennis player. All of this confuses me!

When did you find time to write?

In transportation, a lot: on planes, especially. I think half the book I wrote on the plane. Sometimes, with my little notebook, I write right away when an idea comes to me. Honestly, I shouldn’t have let him down. I was scared: I also spent some sleepless nights, with some insomnia. Ideas will cross you and you won’t let them down. I got up at night, I wrote. Sometimes I write four or five hours straight. It has become a hobby that it is first and foremost. I no longer watch a movie, I no longer read a book, I just write all day. The writing, in fact, dates back so long ago that in the end, I can no longer remember it. I think when I can write, I can hold a ballpoint pen in my hands, I start writing. At the age of three, I even wrote poems on phonetics, trusting my mother. Actually, reading and writing, words, literature in general, that was my first love, before tennis itself. In the end, I really felt like I was dating the little girl I used to be.

Isn’t it too complicated to mix writing and performances on tennis courts?

You have to be successful in separating the good things because above all what costs me the most. It really keeps me from falling asleep. And we know how important sleep is in a playing career. But then, when I was able to understand things, on the contrary, it helped me to back off. Me, I’ve been playing tennis completely for over fifteen years and sometimes very little. And all of a sudden, my head really disappeared. On the contrary, it’s a good thing I took this distance from tennis. Also, for a little anecdote, I made the final corrections a week before my quarter-final in Australia. So to tell you I’m not too hurt!

Alize Cornet after losing to Danielle Collins in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on January 26, 2022, in Melbourne.  (PAUL CROCK / AFP)

A few weeks before Roland-Garros, in Paris, what was the state of your mind?

It was complicated for me to make goals for Roland-Garros. Because since the Australian Open, I haven’t won much. I had trouble finding the landmarks I had found in Australia. Maybe a little emotional reaction. I’m not a machine and I think I finally downplayed the impact it could have on me, this success, because it was a success, this quarter-final in Melbourne. So, really, I just wanted to have fun with Roland. I’ll try to get this game out of the game, to have fun. And then I want to take advantage of it, it could be my last Roland-Garros. I don’t know yet. I want to take advantage of having my family, my friends on the courtside and talking to the audience as much as possible. After all, in terms of results, I think I should let go a little. That’s what I do in Australia and it’s good for me.

Is this your last year on the circuit?

I’m not closing the door on going a little further next year, to do more Roland-Garros next year. That way, I won’t have to force myself to play this year. But surely there, two years for the Paris Olympics, for me is already the end of the world. I set myself the goal to quit after the Tokyo 2020 Games. There, I went on a bit because I was having fun. It had this quarter in Australia, but I really ended up with something. I felt it and went on for two more years with this discipline, with this difficulty, with this life of travel, I couldn’t do it. But I could have participated in the Paris Olympics in another way. Who knows?

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