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Gilles Simon, ‘The Professor’ Who Just Marked 500

  • Posted: May 26, 2022

Gilles Simon, ‘The Professor’ Who Just Marked 500

Frenchman reaches milestone with second-round win at Roland Garros

The last backhand from Steve Johnson had drifted long and Gilles Simon, graying at the temples, let loose a scream. The crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier rose as one and Simon, playing his final Roland Garros, basked in their applause.

A few minutes later, the weary 37-year-old slowly pulled the tape from his fingers and gazed down at the red clay beneath his feet. A small smile finally crossed his face as the weight of his epic achievement washed over him. In defeating Johnson 7-5, 6-1, 7-6(6) on Wednesday, the French wild card won his 500th tour-level match.

“Ah, 500,” Simon told in an exclusive interview afterward. “It’s a nice number that I managed to reach it. I would have survived if I didn’t, of course. But, yeah, it’s one more achievement. To have 500 wins on the Tour, I am quite happy.”

Most Wins By A Frenchman (Open Era)

 Player  Wins
 1) Richard Gasquet  574
 2) Gael Monfils  523
 3) Gilles Simon  500
 4) Yannick Noah  482
 5) Fabrice Santoro  470
 6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  467

Before the tournament began, Simon – two match wins short of the milestone – reiterated that this would be his last season. He was asked by a reporter if he was disappointed not to reach the 500-victory mark.

“That’s not easy-peasy,” Simon said. “We will see. Honestly, it will not change anything in my life. Whether I reach that goal or not, it’s irrelevant.”

After dispatching Johnson, it seemed to mean more to Simon. “It’s a very long journey,” he said. “A lot of matches after 17 years on the Tour – you have good memories, bad memories, everything. I’ve been through pretty much everything. These numbers help you to understand and realise what you did.”

Countryman Arthur Rinderknech said of Simon, “He doesn’t look like the strongest or the biggest player, but at the end of the day, when I was young, I was watching him on TV and he was driving these guys crazy with his game. It shows how much tennis is a mental game and you have to be playing smart.”

Richard Gasquet, who with 574 career victories has more match wins than any other Frenchman, knows Simon better than most, having spent close to two decades on Tour with him. “He’s an incredible player. Everybody struggled against him,” Gasquet said. “He was playing very clever on the court. Never missed. Big talent. His ball-striking, forehand, backhand was amazing. Every player in the world can tell you he struggled against Gilles Simon. Tactically, it was very difficult to play against him.”

France has generously shared its tennis talent over the years. Henri Leconte was a 1988 finalist at Roland Garros, while Guy Forget went to five major quarter-finals and rose to the position of Roland Garros tournament director. Cedric Pioline reached two Grand Slam finals and, like the two aforementioned players, cracked the Top 5.

So, too, did Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a major finalist (2008 Australian Open), winner of 18 titles and more than $22 million in prize money before he retired earlier this week. Yannick Noah, the beloved winner of Roland Garros in 1983, won 23 titles and climbed to No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

And now, in the bottom-line business of match wins, Simon has surpassed all of them. The resilient Frenchman’s victory over Johnson made him only the 56th player in the Open Era to accomplish this heady milestone. For the record, he is 500-390, good for a winning percentage of .562. Simon has collected an impressive 14 titles and won more than $15 million.

<a href=''>Gilles Simon</a>
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Incredibly, Simon and Hugo Gaston are the last two Frenchmen standing at Roland Garros. Simon, who last made the third round in 2018, meets Marin Cilic on Saturday for the opportunity to advance to the fourth round.

“Ultimately, I have been wanting to be a tennis player since I was a kid, since I was 10 years old,” Simon said. “This is the only thing I did. You’re not perfect. You can’t be perfect every time. It’s not a matter of wins and defeats, of ranking. It’s beyond that. If I were to give a judgment on my career, things could have been better. There are matches I could have won, but there are a lot of matches I could have lost, as well.”

He was born outside of Paris in 1984 and, encouraged by his parents, began playing tennis at the age of six. In his early teenage years a professional career seemed unlikely; Simon didn’t see a growth spurt until much later than his peers. Still, he admired the 5-foot-9 Michael Chang, who won Roland Garros in 1989.

Simon turned professional in 2002 – two decades ago. His first ATP-level victory came in February 2005 in Marseille, over Thomas Johansson. Two months later, Simon reached the quarter-finals at Casablanca before he made the main draw of his first major, Roland Garros.

His first title came two years later, at the Open 13 in Marseille, and it confirmed Simon’s ability to compete with the game’s best players. He defeated Lleyton Hewitt, Jonas Bjorkman and Robin Soderling and, in the final, handled Marcos Baghdatis. A second title (Bucharest) vaulted him into the Top 30.

A year later, after a second-round win over Roger Federer in Toronto’s Rogers Cup, it was the Top 15 for Simon. That fall, with a semi-final victory over Rafael Nadal in Madrid, Simon found himself in the Top 10 for the first time – and the No. 1 Frenchman, ahead of Gasquet. Simon qualified for the 2008 Nitto ATP Finals, surprising Federer in the round-robin phase, before falling to Novak Djokovic in a three-set semi-final loss.

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In 2011, Simon won the biggest of his career titles, in Hamburg. He scored his 400th win, over No. 3-ranked Stan Wawrinka, at the 2016 Rolex Shanghai Masters. On two occasions – the 2009 Australian Open and 2015 Wimbledon – Simon reached the quarter-finals.

Simon didn’t have the dazzling weapons possessed by some of his peers, but he had an undeniable guile and a rare, intuitive feel for the game.

Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi described him “Like a professor on the tennis court. Everything about his strategy, his physical movement and everything. He put something different into tennis. He was not very powerful, he didn’t have a big serve. When he was at his best, his movement was so good and he put the ball in difficult positions.”

Countryman Benoit Paire also called out Simon’s tactical brilliance. “He’s one of the smartest players on the court,” Paire said. “He’s very talented because everybody says, ‘Okay, just play from the baseline.’ But what he is doing all his career and making the Top 10, like this is something crazy.”

“I did my utmost as best as I could,” Simon said. “Could I have done better? Yes. Could it have been less good? Of course, yes, as well. I tried to do my best all the time. Did I manage to be proud? Yes, sometimes. That’s part and parcel of a tennis career.

“Year after year, of course, you actually live every kind of feeling. Sometimes you actually lead and you lose. Sometimes you actually are down and you end up winning. It’s not a matter of the biggest tournament won or something. After 17 years, I have done my best. I gave everything I had.”

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Nadal Leads Praise Of Swiatek At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 26, 2022

Nadal Leads Praise Of Swiatek At Roland Garros

Nadal, Swiatek trade compliments in press

Iga Swiatek scored her 30th consecutive match win on Thursday at Roland Garros, completing her passage into the third round with the loss of just four total games in her two victories. Her dominance is making headlines as she continues to draw rave reviews from her peers on the ATP Tour.

“She’s winning very easy. That’s special and very difficult,” Rafael Nadal said in his pre-tournament presser. “I saw her play a couple of matches and seems like today she’s over the rest. That’s what the results say, because when somebody like her is winning the tournaments and is winning with these results, I mean, it’s something special, no?

“Happy for her. She’s fresh. She’s natural. She’s young.”

Swiatek first broke through at the Grand Slam level when she stormed to the 2020 Roland Garros title without dropping more than five games in a single match. This season, she claimed the World No. 1 ranking for the first time in April and has won five WTA Tour titles on the season, proving herself a class apart from her competitors.

“It was a big surprise probably the first time, that couple of years ago when she won here,” Nadal reflected, “but the way that she’s playing this year looks unstoppable. But let’s let her play with calm and without an extra pressure, because probably for her, after the last results, [it] will be an important one here.”

Nadal offered similar praise in Rome: “She’s doing amazing things, no? Playing amazing and winning every single event she played, the last four in a row. Winning Indian Wells and Miami in a row, something difficult.”

Swiatek’s win streak now spans five events: Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome.

“Just happy for her,” Nadal added. “She’s very spontaneous and natural girl. Is good to have girls like this, good people like her having success.”

The Spaniard is far from the first ATP Tour star to sing the praises of Swiatek. Her countryman Hubert Hurkacz has called her a “huge inspiration,” while Andy Murray and Andy Roddick shared their admiration on Twitter during her run to the 2021 Roland Garros quarter-finals.

But at Roland Garros, the questions always come back to Nadal. In press, Swiatek was asked if she would like to play mixed doubles with the 13-time champion.

“Oh, my God. I would love to play mixed doubles with Rafa,” she beamed. “I think it would be really great experience. But when was the last time he played mixed doubles? I want him to be focused on singles.”

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Cressy/Lopez, Mektic/Pavic Reach Roland Garros 3rd Round

  • Posted: May 26, 2022

Cressy/Lopez, Mektic/Pavic Reach Roland Garros 3rd Round

Mektic/Pavic now on 11-match win streak

Paris-born American Maxime Cressy has picked up his first two tour-level doubles wins this week at Roland Garros alongside Spanish veteran Felciano Lopez, who eclipsed the 250-wins mark in doubles earlier this season. 

The first-time pairing improved to 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 15th seeds Maximo Gonzalez and Marcelo Melo on Thursday in Paris. The American-Spanish duo dominated late in both sets, winning the final four games of the opener and the last two games of set two. On both occasions, they sealed the set with a break of serve.

Cressy/Lopez won 78 per cent (28/36) of their first-serve points and saved one of two break points against them in the match, holding in nine of their 10 service games, including their last eight. They await the winner of Friday’s second round matchup that pits top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury against Miomir Kecmanovic and Nicholas Monroe.

Also advancing to the last 16 on Thursday were second-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 winners against Robin Haase and Raven Klaasen. After back-to-back defeats in Munich and Madrid, last year’s No. 1 team has won 11 consecutive matches, including title runs in Rome and Geneva.

Sixth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski were more clinical in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Hunter Reese and Ramkumar Ramanathan.

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Simon Notches 500th Win In Final Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 26, 2022

Simon Notches 500th Win In Final Roland Garros

Frenchman tops Johnson in straight sets

Gilles Simon survived a five-set thriller to extend his Roland Garros farewell in the opening round. After going the distance to upset Pablo Carreno Busta, he had an easier time of it on Thursday against American Steve Johnson.

The 37-year-old French wild card made the most of the Court Philippe Chatrier stage to earn his 500th match win with a 7-5, 6-1, 7-6(6) result, advancing to the third round in Paris for the first time since 2018. Just as in his Tuesday victory, he rode a wave of crowd support to get over the line, leaving the fans on the stadium court singing “Seven Nation Army” after he secured victory on his second match point.

The topsy-turvy contest included 11 breaks of serve, with Simon breaking seven times on 17 chances. The home favourite fell a double break behind at 0-3 in the opening set only to win four straight games to establish himself in the contest. 

From 5-all in the first set, he won seven straight games to take command of the match. But there were more twists in the third set, as Simon twice let a break advantage slip, including when he served for the match at 5-4. After playing for nearly four hours in the opening round, Simon avoided another marathon match by claiming a tight tie-break in which just three points went against serve.

Simon advances to face 20th seed Marin Cilic after the Croatian defeated Marton Fucsovics, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, earlier on Thursday. With one more victory, Simon will match his best run at his home Grand Slam by reaching the last 16 for what would be the fourth time (2011, 2013, 2015).

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Ruud, Rune Roll On In Paris

  • Posted: May 26, 2022

Ruud, Rune Roll On In Paris

#NextGenATP Dane Rune reaches third round on debut

Casper Ruud equalled his best result at Roland Garros Thursday, moving past Finn Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round for the fourth consecutive year.

The Norwegian, who defeated the retiring Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his opening match, looked comfortable throughout against Ruusuvuori and raised his level when required, saving all four break points he faced to advance after two hours and 10 minutes.

“It was [a] high-quality match from the first to the last point,” Ruud said in his post-match press conference. “I think we both played better than what we did in Barcelona. The level was a little bit higher. Emil is playing much better on clay. He’s moving better and playing well from the baseline.

“It was definitely a challenge. Even though it was three straight sets, there were some tough moments in the match, and some chances I didn’t get, but some chances I got. All in all, I’m very happy with the performance.”

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The 23-year-old arrived in Paris in a confident mood after he captured his eighth tour-level title and seventh on clay in Geneva last week. Having made the short journey across from Switzerland, Ruud has quickly adjusted to the colder conditions at Roland Garros and has now won his past six matches.

The eighth seed will aim to advance to the fourth round for the first time in the French capital when he takes on Portugal’s Joao Sousa, whom Ruud defeated in the final in Geneva, or 32nd seed Lorenzo Sonego.

In front of a full crowd on Court 14, Ruud dictated the tempo throughout, with his consistent and deep groundstrokes pinning Ruusuvuori behind the baseline. The Norwegian struck 41 winners and committed 28 unforced errors as he pulled his 23-year-old opponent around to improve to 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head series.

Ruusuvuori was competing in the second round in Paris for the first time, having edged Frenchman Ugo Humbert in five sets. He lost in the first round in 2020 and 2021.

In other early action, #NextGenATP Holger Rune built on his standout win over 14th seed Denis Shapovalov by dispatching Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 51 minutes.

The Dane, currently third in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Milan, is making his debut in Paris. The 19-year-old has enjoyed a strong season, clinching his maiden ATP Tour title in Munich before he reached the semi-finals in Lyon last week.

<a href=''>Holger Rune</a>
Photo Credit: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images

Rune, who won 86 per cent (42/49) of his first-serve points against Laaksonen, now holds a 12-3 record on the season on the European clay. He will play Frenchman Hugo Gaston or Argentine lucky loser Pedro Cachin in the third round.

Rune has already jumped nine places this week to No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as he continues his quest to crack the Top 30 for the first time.

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