Aravane Rezai’s fabulous run in Madrid, where she – as an unseeded player – beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams on the way to the title, has made her a legitimate dark horse pick for this year’s Roland Garros title. If you think that still sounds pretty ridiculous, just watch this video. The girl is a warrior:
I found this video on the Swiss site, Blick, which focuses on the 23-year-old Frenchwoman’s good looks and her Muslim background (a choice quote: “As a little Muslim girl, born of Iranian Parents in France, Aravane Rezaï had little rosy outlook. Her father decided, however, not to hide his daughter under a burqa, but to form a tennis player.“)
Rezai’s father, Arsalan, like his American-Iranian counterpart, Mike Agassi, and the feisty fathers of Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce, decided that his little girl would make her name through tennis. According to Blick, that meant using wood planks both to shovel snow off public tennis courts and to provide warmth and light during young Aravane’s nighttime practice sessions.
“He is a strict father,” says Aravane, (via Blick). “But that’s good. Without hard work there are no results.”
And without tennis dads, there would be few modern champions. Aravane has reached a career high of No. 16 in the rankings this week, just two behind French No. 1 and World No. 14 (and fellow Tennis Dad humor-er) Marion Bartoli.
Aravane has also shown herself to be quite feisty in the press room. Here she is after beating Jelena Jankovic last week (via Tennis Forum):
Q : Well, that was a well deserved win today over one of the favorites for the French Open, Jelena Jankovic. Tell us more about it.
REZAI: Yeah, she is a great player, she has a cool game. But today, I was obivously too good for her and she disliked that, and I hated her attitude at the net, she barely touched my hand during the handshake and I did not like what she said during the postmatch interviews.
Q : What was the difference between you and her today ?
REZAI: Well, I played like a top 5, just like I do since the beginning of the tournament. There is no other explanation as far as I’m concerned.
Q : You look upset by what happened with Jelena during the handshake as you’ve just said. Is it cold between you two ? Do you know each other well ?
A.R. : No, as a person she’s horrible, I mean her attitude, but as a player, she’s okay. She has great shots, but I think she should not behave like a diva on the court.
Of course Jelena had her own take on that match (via Reuters):
“Sometimes I don’t think she (Rezai) knows where she’s hitting the ball. She just goes for broke on every shot and it’s difficult to read,” Jankovic said.
“I’ve never played a player who hits every ball like that. Nobody hits the ball at the same pace every time like she does.”
With this and Serena’s alleged “I’m no Justine” comment, I can’t WAIT for Roland Garros. There are going to be some major fireworks on court. (And why is J.J. always in the middle?)