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Three-Time French Open Champions: The Women

Excerpts and links below from previous and forthcoming publications.

Justine Henin: I watch Justine in slow motion, the transfer of weight from back to front foot, the coiling uncoiling of the legs the hips the shoulders the core. (Is it true she did a thousand sit ups a day?) Justine ‘s one-handed backhand, “the most beautiful shot in tennis” (John McEnroe).

Serena Williams: Bad Ass. That’s what I say to my daughters. That’s what they say to me. We repeat it for emphasis in hushed tones, reverence: Serena’s a Bad Ass. Her serve hit as hard as half the men–and with accuracy, placement, disguise. How many women pitch in the big leagues? That’s what Serena’s serve is. Bad Ass.

Monica Seles: Two hands of both sides, the forehand indistinguishable from the backhand. No one hurled more arms legs body mind propeller hips shoulders pinwheel buzzsaw grunt backhand scream forehand scream ferocity joy crazed ball machine double time triple time missiles torpedoes Monica’s game like a military weapon that even Leonardo with all his imagination could not have invented for the women’s game. 

Steffi Graf: I picture her alone before a late Rothko painting, his darkening palette. Steffi’s favorite color was black. Rothko’s floating color field, “a universe for viewers they do not have in the real world.”  Black a type of protection, a barrier against stalkers, reporters, celebrity, noise. Black a tunnel, a cave, a hole, a portal.  The inevitable turning towards light, the quest for tennis perfection.  How do you enhance a gazelle-like sprinter’s speed, a skidding knifed backhand that rarely missed, the power and precision of the greatest forehand in the history of women’s tennis?

Margaret Court: Margaret Court, the Aussie Amazon, did sprints in the sand and lifted weights when workouts for “ladies” were a dirty word.  On first encountering her, Martina Navratilova said what so many women felt: “Margaret amazed me with her size and strength.”

Chris Evert: No one ever struck the ball more precisely and consistently than Chris. And that perfect, teachable technique. “Training the body to obey the mind,” as Chris herself put it. Her two-handed backhand sparked a revolution. Did you and your daughters hit it, too?

Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario: Aranxta Sanchez Vicario “unceasing in determined pursuit of tennis balls, none seeming too distant to be retrieved in some manner and returned again and again” (Bud Collins).  Like Socrates as gadfly, Aranxta as bumblebee keeps pestering you with questions.  Can you hit another good shot?  Another good shot? Another? Another? Another? Always buzzing around, a nuisance, then suddenly that ripped backhand cross-court. 

Artist Bio: Emmanuelle Olguin is a French artist who does educational comics for children and loves tennis. I first saw this artwork on French Open Champions on Instagram.

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