Tennis: Majoli miffed after being marginalised

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The Independent Online
There was a bit of a to-do at the Direct Line Championships yesterday here. One of the interviewees requested that she be allowed to ask a question first.

"Who won the French Open?''

"A girl from Zagreb called Iva," promptly came the answer from the man from L'Equipe, Andre-Jacques Dereix.

"Oh, yes, and what is her other name?''

"Majoli," replied Andre-Jacques, smiling.

"Oh, yes," said Iva Majoli, "perhaps you could tell that to the WTA Tour and the tournament director, so maybe they will have a bit more respect for me, the French Open champion, and put me on the Centre Court rather than Court 10 or 15.''

It was Court No 2, actually, but not even the intrepid Andre-Jacques had the heart to correct the miffed Majoli.

"Even if my dog had won the French Open, he would deserve to be on the Centre Court," the 19-year-old Croat said.

It was one of those hell-hath-no-fury days in women's tennis.

Nathalie Tauziat, who edged out the 17-year-old Venus Williams, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, received a warning for being coached from the stands. One game later, the Frenchwoman made a rude gesture with an arm. "I did it because I was in a rage," Tauziat, the 1995 champion, said.

Majoli, the No 3 seed, appeared to be more upset about the perceived snub than about losing her opening match against Natasha Zvereva, 6-2, 7-5.

The Centre Court had been reserved for singles involving Jana Novotna, the No 2 seed, who defeated Yayuk Basuki, 7-5, 6-4, the match between Tauziat and Williams, and Monica Seles, the top seed, who beat Naoko Sawamatsu, 6-2, 7-5.

George Hendon, the tournament director, explained that he had been advised on the order of play by the referee and the WTA director. "What we had here was an abundance of top players," Hendon said. "We played the No 1 and No 2 seeds on the Centre Court, and took into account that the public were fascinated by Venus Williams.

"I would have been guilty of letting 5,000 people in the grounds and putting her on a court with room for 500 to 600 spectators. So on Court No 2 we played Arantxa [Sanchez Vicario, the No 4 seed] and Iva. I agreed with the advice I got.''

Majoli was not impressed. Having thrashed Martina Hingis, the world No 1, in Paris and then spent a couple of days being feted in Croatia, she had anticipated make a rather grander entrance in England.

"There is a big difference between Court 2 and Centre Court," she said, "and I thought I deserved to be on the Centre Court," she said, before preparing to leave for London to complete her preparation for Wimbledon.

Majoli has never won a match on the lawns of the All England Club. "This year I have a different attitude going into the first round at Wimbledon," she said. "Nick Bollettieri [her coach] is coming over to help me. I'm just going to concentrate on the first round. It's very important for me to win.''

The spectacular Venus Williams also hopes to make an impact in SW19, along with paying a visit to the Tower of London.

Tauziat looked as if she would like the Tower to revert to its original purpose after the umpire reprimanded her seconds after she had broken Williams back to 4-4 in the final set.

She did not deny that she had been coached by Regis de Camaret, who was seated in a stand behind one of the baselines, arguing that she was not being coached at the time of the warning.

Later, when interviewed in French, Tauziat said, "All coaches coach. When Mrs Hingis sits beside the court and talks to her daughter, nobody gives her a warning or anything."