- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

Virginie Razzano played the first round of the French Open with a black ribbon in her hair.

Her fiancé, Stephane Vidal, died just a week before the tournament after battling a brain tumor for nine years. Razzano, whose career already had encountered a road block after a foot injury in 2009, suffered on and off the court.

Two months later, she continues to dedicate her game to Vidal, who also was a former coach. She comes to the Citi Open in College Park with the goal of starting a journey to reclaim the No. 16 ranking she once held, or even improve upon it.

“I’m going in positive — just play,” Razzano said. “I have objectives. I would like to win some tournaments and maybe one Grand Slam in my career. I have many years to play — five years to play. If my body, physically, is OK, I can play and see what I can do. I am young. I am only 28.

“If I work a lot, physical and tennis, everything that I did already, I have a good chance to come back to the top 20. I don’t know if I can move back by the end of this season because it’s very near. But for 2012, I would like to be in the top 20 or top 10. For the end of this season, I would like to be in the top 50 or 40. If it’s better than that, I’m happy.”

Razzano, a native of France, spoke with quiet composure about her fiance’s illness, apologizing when she tripped over an occasional English word. She said that during his final months, she was unable to fill her schedule with tournaments because she wanted to spend as much time as possible at home.

“I think it was two months after Miami — it was two months where I would have to go back home for one week and play for one week and go back,” Razzano said. “Two months is a lot. It was not easy for me to go on the court. There are many things on your mind. It’s not easy.”

But now Razzano, ranked No. 81, is committed to her career, planning to play as much as possible to recover a place she feels she deserves.

“It’s important for my job because my career — I have some objective — to come back to my better ranking,” she said. “I lost many points, and my ranking was down a lot. Now I try to come back with my ranking to go in the top 20 because it’s my place. With my tennis, I have the game to go back to the top 20.”

Razzano will take the court against American Irina Falconi in Friday’s quarterfinals. She defeated Misaki Doi of Japan in the opening round and Elena Baltacha of Great Britain in the second round to reach this stage of the tournament.

“I played a great match today,” she said after Wednesday’s victory over Baltacha. “I feel good about my tennis, my game, and I have a good sensation about my physical body. I did a complete match, very serious, and focused on the ball for every game. I try to do my job.”

When she leaves Washington, Razzano will head to Vancouver, where she made the final last year. Her priority is to be well-prepared for the U.S. Open in August, but every victory she gathers along the way is more than a boost to her ranking. It is a tribute to the one she loved and lost.

“I win for him, and I win for me,” she said. “First for him, and after for me — for my job.”

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