PARIS – Virginie Razzano will play at the French Open despite the death of her fiance.
Stephane Vidal, who also served as Razzano's coach until March, was diagnosed with a brain tumor nine years ago and died Monday at 32. But despite his illness, he encouraged the 28-year-old Razzano to compete at Roland Garros.
"Four or five days ago, I asked him: 'Do you want me to go and play at Roland Garros?'" the Frenchwoman told Tuesday's edition of L'Equipe newspaper. "He answered: 'Yes, you need to play.' Because his intention is that I keep on going in my life, that I play for him and that I continue to be strong and to fight."
The French Open begins Sunday.
Razzano reached a career-high No. 16 in the women's tennis rankings in 2009, the same year she reached the fourth round at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Her only two WTA Tour titles came in 2007, including a win over Venus Williams in the final of the Japan Open.
Razzano, now ranked 93rd, met Vidal 11 years ago when she was training at his parents' tennis club. The two quickly got along well and started to date each other.
"He was like a big brother," Razzano said. "We shared very strong moments and, little by little, we fell in love."
Two years later, Vidal was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent an operation that briefly left him paralyzed on one side.
"It was very hard for him, because he had to learn again how to walk and how to write to become again the man he once was, until things got worse again," Razzano said.
In March, he became too weak to continue as Razzano's coach and did not travel with her to the United States. He stayed in the south of France with her father while Razzano was accompanied by Vidal's mother.
"They didn't tell me the truth about his condition because Stephane wanted to hide it from me," Razzano said. "He wanted me to play well in Miami. He already knew his tumor had become too big and knew he was about to die. For him, knowing that I was playing was extra energy."
Vidal almost died during the Indian Wells tournament and had to be resuscitated but his family didn't inform Razzano until she returned to France.
"I didn't know this. It came as a huge shock," Razzano said. "The most beautiful thing we achieved in our lives was not a match. We were a couple, but we became one person."
Without elaborating, Razzano added she had a "very difficult adolescence" before she met Vidal.
"It's hard, but thanks to the strength he gave me I'm still alive," Razzano said.