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A Chinese start to the new year

Updated: 2013-01-05 08:38
( China Daily)

A Chinese start to the new year

Editor's note: China Daily will collaborate with the WTA this year to bring you columns from various women's players in an effort to provide insight into life on the tour.

Bonjour! Glad to see you again, Chinese fans!

I am French player Marion Bartoli, who returned to China this week to play in the inaugural Shenzhen Gemdale Open.

I usually kick off my season in Australia, but this year I decided to play in Shenzhen as I had great memories at the China Open last year (reaching semis) and I am always happy to support new tournaments.

I think China has been really putting a lot of effort into promoting tennis, especially on the women's side, and this tournament is great because it features the same fast court as the Australian Open.

The first tournament is always tough for every player. It's pretty hard to get back into the game after a long break. That's part of why I didn't reach the deep rounds here, ending my campaign at the quarters after losing to Czech Klara Zakopalova (6-3, 6-2) on Thursday. I felt tired at times this week; maybe I haven't recovered yet from my winter training.

Anyway, the first Grand Slam is coming soon and doesn't allow players much time to prepare. That's why sometimes you see some big names suffer tough losses in Melbourne. The most difficult challenge I met in 2012 was also there (upset by Zheng Jie in third round). I feel I am better prepared this year, but sometimes you fall even when you've tried your hardest.

To get into the peak form quickly, some like to play a lot and some don't. I will travel straight to Melbourne and miss playing in Sydney next week. I played the Sydney event in 2012 and I felt tired in Melbourne. So, I will just go to Australia for practice in warmer conditions.

My biggest wish for the new year is to win a Grand Slam. It's been my long-term ambition since I made the Wimbledon final in 2007.

I feel I am near that goal as I came close in the 2011 French Open semis and US Open quarters last year. I think if I am really on my game, I can do it. The key is to keep consistent in the later stages. You have to put together three great matches from the quarters onwards, but I sometimes struggle to hang on. I truly believe that hard work will eventually pay off and it's just a matter of time.

Someone said when you reached your 30s, it's hard to win majors. It depends on each player's approach. Everything can turn quickly in tennis.

Yes, you won't recover as fast as you did when you were younger, but I do believe if I start to have a couple of good matches, then I have the experience and confidence to go further.

It seems I am the only veteran remaining active off the golden era of French tennis when we had four or five players, like Amlie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, in the top 15. You don't have that generation every decade. It's almost impossible to repeat that.

Now, the situation seems tough for France as we don't have many promising youngsters. In tennis, it's more about mental strength. It's difficult for juniors with talent to develop that.

Sometimes you think it's easy for them but they just fall. I think we see some French players coming up. Then their achievements will depend on their willingness to work hard.

My suggestion to them is to be surrounded by a good team, which will tell you the truth, not what you want to hear. Something true is usually tough to hear, but may be the only way to improve. And then you do the right thing by working hard. It's really demanding and there are no shortcuts.

Overall, tennis is an important part of my life, but not all. I would just love to be healthy and happy, and try my hardest to be a better person in 2013.

Marion Bartoli is the current world No 11 player. She has three WTA titles and reached the quarterfinals at the US Open last year.

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