Original source: L’Équipe 2 September 2014 quoted by Vincent Cognet
It’s 13h30. In half an hour, Gilles will leave for his practice session that he’s been sharing almost exclusively with Gael Monfils since the beginning of the American tour – a session that’s neither technical nor tactical, only focused on the quality and intensity of strokes. While he’s waiting, his German coach, Jan De Witt, sits himself down in the players’ garden with a cappuccino to talk about the fourth round against Marin Cilic and many other things.
Q : Were you surprised by Gilles Simon’s success against David Ferrer?
Absolutely not, because his level of play has been excellent since Rome. But he was affected by a lot of injuries and he had trouble translating it. I knew that he was in great physical condition. Against Ferrer, it’s nothing but a matter of managing emotions.
Q : Yet their head to head was not in his favor…
It’s not that important. If Gilles is in good physical condition and feels relaxed, he has the level to challenge those guys. You only have to remember his match against Nadal in Rome. It could have been the same scenario against Djokovic at Wimbledon but he got tense too early in the match.
Q : Why?
Stress can arise at any moment, before or during a match. The whole issue for players is to control it. Against Ferrer, he didn’t get tense for one second. We saw the result. And yet, the intensity of the match was extraordinary. I saw David after the match an he told me that he was physically dead despite feeling in good form. It says a lot about Gilles.
Q : Does this physical condition come from the training in Halle, last winter?
There is a connection. But it’s not the only reason. Since the beginning of the season, we organized three training periods. In the US, Gilles trained very hard physically for about ten days. Really demanding work. But if you get tense, it’s all for nothing. Stress is terrible because it makes you battle against two opponents : the player in front of you and yourself. It’s crazy how much energy it consumes.
Q : For him, how does being fit manifest itself?
By his speed: How fast he moves on the court, and the speed of his strokes. If he unleashes his forehand down the line, it goes really really fast. The problem is to do that for three and a half or four hours. The key is to maintain this level of intensity.
Q : Is it the best Gilles Simon you’ve seen since the beginning of your partnership?
Hard to say. He has already played some big matches. But it’s true that his consistency is very good at the moment. It’s linked to the fact that he doesn’t have any injury. His shoulder is fine, his knee as well.
Q : What would you say is Gilles Simon’s playing style?
It’s not monolithic. His style is to adapt. He plays a different type of tennis depending on his opponents. You’ll see, against Cilic, he won’t play the same tennis he played against Ferrer. Against Delbonis, it was yet another type. You have to play slowly (as to not give Delbonis the speed he likes) and high. Maybe that’s why he didn’t serve well : his game plan asked for so much discipline that it consumed a lot of his energy.
Q : How do you foresee his fourth round against Cilic?
It will be a very easy match to prepare tactically because of Cilic’s way of playing, which suits Gilles perfectly. He’s not scared of big servers because he returns very well and he’s better than them in the rallies. Marin can’t hurt Gilles. Impossible. And I don’t think he will. Goran is surely preparing his player to develop a new approach. I won’t talk about tactics for hours with Gilles, I’ll talk of state of mind. I’ll tell him that Cilic is a very good player, that he’ll surely have some surprises prepared, that he’s capable of high level shots. Gilles will have to accept to be led, at least for a certain period of time, even if he plays a great match. It will be up to him to stay calm and think about his options. Because it’s his biggest strength : he’s smarter than the majority of players (smile). But if you’re stressed, you’re not smart anymore.
Q : But it’s unlikely that Simon will start to feel stressed now…
False. A player can very well be calm the first three matches and lose his self control during the fourth.
Q : But where does it come from?
From the expectations that he puts on himself . We’re always talking about the fans, the media etc. who put pressure on the player. I don’t believe that. Even better, I don’t care. Our only objective is the performance. In elite sport, the only real danger is to put pressure on yourself.
Translation by Suze (@halyggaly)