On one side, Serena Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and Andy Roddick. On the other, Charles Baudelaire, Didier Van Cauwelaert or Harlan Coben. There’s a small step from tennis to literature, happily taken by the French youngster Alizé Cornet. Back from Stuttgart’s tournament, the 88th player in the world and bookworm, was kind enough to open up the doors of her personal library. Chapter one.
Alizé, when did your love for literature started?
In a way, it’s always been, it starts when I was very young, at 3 years old. Already, I was very receptive to everything that my mother gave me to read. I was fairly early and so I was able to read and write very young, I skipped two classes and found myself in year 3 at 5 years old. Even today, despite my scientific studies, I have this little literary side. In fact, I’ve always liked it. Generally, one can say that I read quite a lot of books every month: on the plane, on tour, in the taxi, in my hotel room in the evening rather than watching TV! (laughs)
Do you remember the first book you ever read?
I believe it’s the Little Prince by Saint-Exupery. It’s such a wonderful book that I rediscover a little more every time. I ‘ve read it for the first time at 5 years old, reopened it at 10 and read it again at 15! Initially, you cling to the simplicity and the proper literally side of the story: a fox, a child, animals, etc… And over the years, it kind of grew up with me: I’m always amazed that with such simple words one can express things so strong and so deep.
We often say that, but your parents are the ones that get you into reading aren’t they?
Well, they didn’t had force me. My house was overflowing with books. Our library is amazing. My brother (his agent, ed), he’s a brain: he has a PhD in immunology! My mother is an avid reader as well. So, when it comes to books, they are my key advisers. I’m just the little sporty one of the family after all...
What is their advice to you?
A little bit of everything. To be honest, I have no specific literary genre. I read as many novels as short stories, biographies, thrillers, philosophical stuff... well, that not too much (laughs)! Books are something quite infinite. A lifetime is just not enough.
What are your favourite books?
Uh ... This is very tricky. I've really enjoyed reading Her Name Was Sarah by Tatiana de Rosnay, which was later adapted into a movie. Otherwise, I like Didier Van Cauwelaert, from Nice, whose writing is beautiful. His style is quite unique. I also like Harlan Coben’s thrillers but since I'm a bit chauvinistic, I have to say Guillaume Musso and Marc Levy. Of course there are easy read novels, but it’s the promise of a good time. A sort of appetizer!
Very little to be honest. I kind of like what is modern, the books of my time. But, right now I’m reading Albert Cohen. You can’t get more classic than that!
In literature, you seem to prefer the style to the substance?
That’s right. I'm always impressed when someone releases a beautifully written book, with style, mastery and fluidity. When I come across a fine quill, I always say: "How did the writer manage to do this?" The art of words, that’s what matters to me. At the end of the day, it’s just like music: on one side you have the catchy melodies and on the other you have the great lyrics. If you find the two together, you have a masterpiece.
You never read books about tennis?
I live, eat and sleep tennis! I'm not going to read about it! Okay I have read the two Yannick Noah’s books - the first one is more spiritual - Fabrice Santoro's biography and Serena Williams’ one… Well, actually I didn’t opened this one yet ... I’m not sure why (laughs).
Do you ever happen to devour a few lines of a novel before going on the tennis court?
I have a little story about this. In 2005, I was really into Harry Potter. I was reading one during a long wait before a game in Spain. When I walked into the court, I was still in its world, into the sacrilege, spells, stuff like that ... I was playing against Voldemort! I was not there mentally and I never managed to find my way back to the game. I took a slammer and since then I try not to read anything too captivating before a match.
Are people into literature on the WTA Tour ?
One thing is certain: other foreign female players on the tour are fans of the French language. They find it very pretty. Words keep coming and sound so good ... But you know, far more than for men, women's tennis is a world of rivalry. For those who read, we do it in our corner. I am someone very private, I tend to retreat into myself. Personally, I don’t really have any friends on the tour: maybe one or two. But the discussions are not very serious! A bit about politics, but really, it’s not necessarily in the company of a player that I feel like to talk. You should never engage with any potential opponent ...
Interview by Victor Le Grand