I tried to translate the article during the match, but the style is too difficult for me, my English isn't good enough. It must sound quite
in English, but it also does in French! In fact, I don't always understand what he's trying to say in French either.
The fluid mechanisms
He’s only 23 years old and lives on the ATP tour in a certain anonymity despite two titles and a 34th spot in the ranking (at the beginning of May). Let’s make the acquaintance of Gilles Simon, an atypical and endearing player.
Fluid. It’s one of his favourite adjectives. His vocabulary is as rich as the range of his shots. Fluidity of the body. He’s the hybrid animal of the ATP tour, as if the qualities of the octopus and the spider were amalgamated with the tonus of the kangaroo. The fluidity of a mind in permanent contortions too. Gilles Simon does everything at the same time, asks the questions, answers them and analyzes himself with many traits of humour, according to his inspiration. Maybe he will one day agree to flex the legs when he plays from the baseline, but we don’t really care, actually. Because he already plays divinely well and because we find him even funnier the way he is.
The childhood of a puny boy
Whatever happens from now on, the first part of his life has already been a success: “I’ve always dreamed of being strong and play all these big tournaments, so my dream has already come true. On the tour, we all have wondered one day: ’But what am I heading for? What am I going to do with my life?’”
It was far from certain he would succeed in it, though: he was ranked only –15 at the age of 18; at the same age, Hewitt and Safin were on the edge to win their first Slam. “But I knew from the beginning that it would take more time for me because of a growth retardation which had made me lose 3 years. I had to cling to other things. Like the fact that many guys, especially in France, had a late breakthrough. Forget and Pioline probably reached their best ranking at the age of 26.” With two titles already (Marseille and Bucharest in 2007), Simon is rather ahead of them: “I’ve never stagnated, my progress has been quite smooth/fluid so far.”
Laser or pusher?
He made a name for himself at the beginning of 2006 with his tennis made of spineless shots which prevented many of his opponents, especially the Czech Tomas Berdych, from playing their game. “But I’m hardly doing that anymore. The guys must have thought I was an idiot. But they’re not stupid, they got the idea quickly and things became much tougher for me. Now I’m relying on my trumps to win, and not on the weaknesses of the opponent. Even though I’m sometimes forced to use these tricks again when I’m not feeling well.”
But we prefer him when he shows all his potential of speed and creativity. “I like my game when I dare to play it. People will say again that I’m conceited, but I couldn’t stand being laborious. I’m too playful in life. I always feel like cracking a forehand winner which will go much faster than most other guys’.”
Je m’aime, moi non plus (I love myself, me neither)
Sure, he could improve his game forward and at the net too: “But I’ve seen Agassi win Grand Slams without hitting a volley, so…” Sure, his 65 kg don’t really impress the heavyweights of the tour: “But when I beat Canas and Robredo, they were completely exhausted at the end, while I was still able to run.” The mind is his real area of turbulence in everyday life. With a rare honesty in an environment where people often prefer to fool themselves a little bit, he says: “I’m not afraid anymore to take a beatdown against the best players because I’m convinced that I play as well as they do. But I have trouble closing out matches. As if I was thinking: ‘OK, I can win, but it would suit me to lose…’”
It reminds of one of his already cult statements, after his defeat to Youzhny in Indian Wells in March: “I sometimes wonder if I’m not afraid to be too strong…” Explanations: “It occurred to me during the match, just like that. I was playing well and I said to myself: ‘It’s too easy…’ It’s ultra arrogant and out of place because I was playing against a guy who has already made semi-finals in Grand Slams. But all the same, that’s what I felt. Same against Nadal at the Australian Open: I have a setpoint at 5-2, but I don’t close it out. As if I was afraid it would disturb if I won 6-2 6-2 against Nadal. I shouldn’t care about it. I guess I need to sort out my motivation, ambition and pride issues.”
Is it serious, doctor?
What about a little preparation with a mental assistant to find some avenues? “We have enough problems like that without adding new ones. I have the feeling that even if everything is OK, a mental assistant will find some problem. Like with the podiatrist: even if you have perfect feet, you can be sure you will come out of his office with insoles.” A psychoanalyst would possibly need a therapy himself after having met Gilles Simon…
He goes on with his inner trip out loud: “As long as people don’t think I’m able of great things, I feel like I’m not allowed to do it. In fact, I probably don’t like being judged… “ The need to be loved, maybe? “It would suck not to be loved, yes. I want people to be happy to come and watch me play. I’m probably not immune enough to public opinion. We all need to work on ourselves, and I’m in the middle of it.”
He’s finally found a source of inspiration just next to him: his old buddy from the Insep Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “He has always thought he was stronger than everybody else. When he plays Feliciano Lopez in Wimbledon, he says: ‘Wait, what has he done except a quarter of final in Wimbledon?’ Jo doesn’t fool himself, he feels it. When he plays Nadal, he’s sure he will win, unlike me.”