“Tennis embodies the losing side of French sport”

At the time, the Parisian venue was not yet called Accor Arena. But it is there, in the old red bleachers of the Paris-Bercy omnisports palace, not far from Fontenay-sous-Bois (Val-de-Marne), where he grew up, that the young Gilles Simon (169e world) dreamed of being a tennis player in the early 1990s.

The years passed and, after twenty seasons at the professional level, marked by fourteen singles titles on the ATP circuit, the former 6e world player (a ranking achieved in January 2009) is about to end his career at Bercy, precisely. He received an invitation from the organizers to enter the main draw of the Paris Masters 1000, where he will face Briton Andy Murray in the first round.

How are you approaching the last tournament of your career?

The objective is very simple: to make a match. From the moment there are exchanges, it runs, it sweats, a great atmosphere… For me, that’s the most important thing. And I’m very worried about starting this game. Because I know I can be strong, but I also know how bad I can be lately.

You have published a book entitled “This sport that drives you crazy” (Flammarion, 2020). Why does tennis drive you crazy?

When you play tennis, you are confronted with your fears. There is no time limit. You have to go and win the last point, even if you have lost the thread. You can lead 6-0, 4-1 and lose the game. So you’re always vigilant about what’s going on deep inside you: “Here, I’m a little more tense…” It’s an inner journey, in fact. “I won 6-1, 6-1, but if I had lost the game at 4-1, it would have been more complicated…” We have to be honest with that. Except that at first you don’t want to say it, because you consider it a sign of weakness.

In your book, very critical of the training system in French tennis, you emphasize the fact that you were not taught to understand these fears or manage them, but rather to ignore them or hide them…

[Il se met dans la peau d’un coach] “Look, Rafa’s commitment! Look at Novak’s determination! Look at Federer as he goes to the important points! » We place the cursor up there [il lève la main] with a speech full of confidence, conviction, determination, etc. Except that you have another performance because in the decisive moments, your heart beats faster, your breath is shorter, your legs stop moving. So you grow up with this shift.

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