Gilles Simon On Competing Against The Big Four: ‘It Was A Nightmare’
I’m 35 years old, and I have won 14 ATP Tour titles and reached World No. 6. For a long time, the biggest problem my generation faced was that the top four players — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — were too good.
For someone like me who was in the middle of these guys’ careers, it was a nightmare.
It was a chance to play with the best players and to compete against them. Every win I earned against them was a huge performance in itself, having a chance to test yourself against guys who are some of the best players ever. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic might be the three best players of all-time at one point. I’m lucky that I’ve been part of it.
But the problem is when you’re a tennis player, you want to win. You want to win big tournaments. However, with Rafa competing, for example, it’s complicated to win Roland Garros.
We had Juan Martin del Potro, who has won one Grand Slam. I’m pretty sure in another generation and without injuries, Del Potro could have won four, five or six Slams. With them around, he earned one and only captured one ATP Masters 1000. What’s amazing is he needed to save three championship points in the 2019 Indian Wells final to do it. Do you realise how good that guy is?
Simon’s ATP Head2Head Record vs. The Big Four
I feel like we need young players to play great tennis. Tennis was suffering for too long, as the new generations have not been good enough to beat the Big Four. It’s not saying anything bad about guys like Milos Raonic or Kei Nishikori or anyone from their generation, because those guys are super good. It just shows how good Roger, Rafa, Novak and Andy were.
Even being 20 years older than some of the new players, they still beat them because they are just martians. It’s crazy to be that good for that long every single tournament, every single week.
At first, I was kind of happy that the new players were not able to beat them, because I’ve had that feeling my whole career. Of course we want to win a Grand Slam. Maybe it sounds like an excuse, but with these guys it was impossible.
However, because the Big Four are getting older, they have to play a bit less, so there is a bit more of an opening. It’s great to see new players starting to come through.
Now I’m happy if the young guys can finally beat them. We need that for the sport. I think this new generation of players, many of whom are under 23 years old, they play super good. They will lead the sport in the future and I’m really happy to see that.
I think especially this most recent generation of players is really attractive. There are players with many different styles, and different personalities, too. You take guys like Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, then you have the young American guys who are a very good generation of players. Stefanos Tsitsipas can have an amazing game, Sascha Zverev too.
I feel it’s a great generation in terms of personality. Guys like Felix, Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev. They are not just good players, but they are super nice guys and very good people. That’s going to help them. They are bringing a lot of variety to the court.
We need that because Novak, Rafa and Roger were leading the sport forever. At some point, they’re going to stop.