After falling in straight sets to Serbia's Novak Djokovic last week in Milan, many thought that Gilles Simon's win in the Goldcoast might just have been a flash in the pan. His run to the finals on the grass courts indicates the Frenchman has the game to beat the world's best.
Shaking off last week's loss with straight sets wins over Thomaz Bellucci and Roger Federer, losing only nine games total, the unique Frenchman displayed the same impressive tennis that enabled him to take the Gold Coast title. Still, he insisted that the matches were not as routine as the scoreline suggests, "For sure, these past two matches, they could have been quite different if just one point goes different here or there. I stayed very intense throughout, and was able to produce very nice shots on big points."
"I actually find that I am liking these grass courts very much. I used to struggle a lot with the movement, slipping and falling, but it has not been an issue this week." Simon said of the tournament, adding that he was trying be more aggressive and come into net, a tactic he suspects will help him on all surfaces. He also felt his flat backhand was particularly effective in keeping his opponents behind the basline.
Simon will take on occasional doubles partner John Isner in the final, against whom he had a very good record already this year, although he is wary of tomorrow's match. "Yes, it's true that I defeated John two weeks ago, but with his serve, every match with John is a battle. On grass especially, it will be very tough to get his first serves back in play. If I can get into rallies, then I feel my chances are good, but that will not be easy. He will want to end the points quickly, so it will be a tug-of-war."
If you only caught the first 25 minutes of the encounter today between Gilles Simon and roger Federer, it would be hard to blame you for assuming Federer's all-court game trounced the Frenchman. It was not to be.
It's true that throughout the first set, the counter puncher looked out of sorts, and completely incapable of matching the fury of a Federer forehand. Simon screamed at himself when a failed passing shot attempt cost him his only shot at a break in the first set when he had 15-30. He looked ready to pack it in and head to Melbourne rather than play in a week-long round robin, but things changed in the second set. A beautiful running backhand down the line gave him the first game of the second set, and while Federer would continue to fight to stay in the match, the Frenchman never let gave up his grip on the lead.
"It was very difficult at the beginning for me. Roger was just unloading his power into his groundstrokes and serves, and I thought if he continues to play like this, he will be impossible to beat. In the second and third sets, I try to focus less on him and more on myself. What I am able to control. I placed an importance on keeping the ball deep, and not allowing him short balls to hurt me," Simon told the press after his victory.
Simon will play Fernando Gonzalez and Thomaz Bellucci in the round robin. If he manages to finish at the top of his group, he could play doubles partner John Isner, whom he was supposed to play on the grass in Nova Scotia before the match was canceled due to rain.
For the second time this week, Gilles Simon recovered from a humbling 0-6 start to overcome opponents in fine form. If his first title win in the Gold Coast showed how well the Frenchman could play, dominating opponents, when his game was on, this week showed off his world class fight.
Roger Federer, Fernando Gonzalez and John Isner must have all thought they had the match under wraps as they rushed to huge, seemingly insurmountable leads, but it was not to be. Below is his post-tournament press conference.
Question: Gilles, congratulations on another fantastic week.
Simon: Thank you. It was a very nice experience to play here in the Madison Square Garden.
Question: Many times this week you looked out of it. How were you able to turn it around time and time again?
Simon: Well, I just fight for it. You know, these matches leading up to the Australian Open, they are very important for the confidence. Some players, maybe they don't need it so much, but for me, I like to have many matches and many wins so that I know, when I am on the court, that I can win it in the tough moments.
Question: What do you tell yourself when your opponent is playing at such a high level. How do you stay in it?
Simon: Well I know my own abilities. Is not so easy to keep hitting winners point after point. I jut run, hit, run hit and hope that I can change the situations. I think, maybe today with John. His first serve percent maybe go down a little bit. First set it seemed like every point from him was just ace. He give me a few looks in the beginning of second set and I taked them.
Question:Could I ask you about a moment in your match against Fernando Gonzalez?
Simon: Yes, yes of course.
Question: There was a moment, after you had broken him early in the second set, you were at the net and it appeared that he fired a forehand and it hit you in the groin...
Simon: No, no. Missed. Thank goodness.
Question: Did you think that was poor sportsmanship on his part though, to go right at you?
Simon: It is fairplay to go at the opponent. For sure, nobody wants to hurt anyone else, but sometimes it is the best play. I cannot fault him for this. Perhaps if he had hit his mark I would feel different...
Question: Gilles, you have a very good track record against the huge serving John Isner. How are you able to get so many returns into play?
Simon: Well, is luck a little bit. Sometimes, you know, just have to guess which way he gonna go. I guess pretty good today, at least in second and third sets. Very happy. For sure it is tough to play someone whose game you know so well, but that is tennis. You will have to play friends.
Question: Roger Federer called you a "pusher" after his loss to you. Do you have a response to that?
Simon: Is fine. He can say what he wants, no? I beated him the last two times so I feel okay. He is tough opponent, obviously, so I am happy to have the wins. I not gonna worry about if people don't like my game, how I win.