Simon Will Always Have Paris To Remember, Win Or Lose

Gilles Simon (photo: Christophe Guibbaud / FFT)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Sentimental French favorite Gilles Simon will remember his last week as a pro tennis player for a long time. He’ll always have Paris – win or lose.

Playing the final tournament of his professional career, the 37-year-old native of Nice, France, ranked 188th, was given a wild card into the main draw. He has given his faithful fans attending this week’s Rolex Paris Masters in the French capital city memories that will last a long time.

Simply, Simon refuses to lose. The fans flocking to see him play have Simon’s back and he’s giving it his all in return.

Take Wednesday for instance. Simon backed up his memorable first-win win against former World No. 1 Andy Murray with a thrilling 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 triumph over American No. 1 Taylor Fritz, who was in the chase for a berth in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, hoping compete in the Nitto ATP Finals. The match was featured on Court Central inside Bercy’s Accor Arena.

In his three-hour, five-minute victory over Fritz, Simon converted four of 11 break points to extend his career for at least another day. At a set apiece, Simon broke Fritz for the fourth time to go ahead 5-4 in the final set. Then, he consolidated the break and won on his first match point after Fritz killed a seven-shot rally by sailing a backhand return long.

Simon, who outpointed Fritz 115-109, overcame 34 unforced errors by hitting 19 winners. He benefited from his opponent’s 57 unforced errors. He was rewarded by the partisan French fans with a rousing rendition of France’s national anthem “La Marseillaise.”

On Thursday, Simon will meet Canadian No. 1 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is ranked World No. 8 and has won three consecutive ATP Tour titles.

After Simon’s 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Murray on Monday, he was asked in his press conference what his mind set was for his final tournament. He articulated his thoughts this way (translated from French to English):

“I have a lot of mixed feelings that are contradictory. Of course, I want to win, but part of me is impatient to stop, because it’s very hard. So, I try and not to think too much about it. I just say I’m going to play like I have always done. I have a match in two days. I’m in this state of mind. I have 48 hours to recover, to do my best. When I’m focused on that, it enables me to forget all the rest.”

And so, Simon did just that.

After beating Fritz, which evened his tour-level win-loss record this season at 7-7 and left him 14-15 lifetime in Paris, here is how Simon put his thoughts into words:

“Well, it has come down, because I’m super tired, but I think I managed pretty well. Maybe I lacked something in the second set, because I was leading in most games. I was winning my serve games a bit easier than him. I had broken him, and I let him break me back by playing a bad game, missing a volley that was not too hard.

“When he broke me, I had three break points at 5-5, and I didn’t win them, and I was finding that I was getting tired. Maybe, I could have used more the crowd. At that moment I could have put more pressure on him. But I did that very well in the third set.

“It was a very difficult match from the beginning till the end. Very long match. As often in these matches there were good things; others that were not so good. So out of three hours, you need to see everything.”

The 6-foot, 184-pound Simon, who turned professional back in 2002, broke into Top 10 in 2008 after beating then-No. 1 Roger Federer at Toronto and No. 1 Rafael Nadal at Madrid. Then, he peaked at No. 6 in January 2009. He has amassed 504 career wins, lost 393 and won 14 ATP Tour singles titles. He’s earned more than $16 million (singles and doubles combined) in his 19 years on the ATP Tour.

Simon has thrived on the Bercy crowds just as he did in the summer at Roland Garros. They gave him their undying support and he gave them cherished memories. He was asked about it in his Wednesday evening press conference.

“It’s more the crowd that is making me a gift rather than the contrary. I’m just on the court, I do my best, as I have always done,” Simon said.

“But maybe there is a perception that has changed when I said I was going to stop at the end of the year. Jo [Tsonga] has also stopped. Often, we were considered as a group of four [with Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils]. So, there is one, and then two, and then you start saying, Okay, it’s going to be difficult.

“So indeed, from that moment onwards, and I said it on the court at the end of the first round, I felt a lot of support and compassion from the audience, which is no longer judging the result. Because before, when I was achieving this third round, they didn’t say it was fantastic, but now they say it’s fantastic.

“So, it’s not really the result that counts. It’s more the fact that I’m able to play at a very high level. Last time on two very important tournaments that are important for us. We played long matches. Maybe some people we played long years, and maybe some people got attached to us before we leave. We just want to play good matches. Try to enjoy this experience.

“So, if we are able to do so, it’s fantastic. It’s my great fear when I played in Roland Garros, and when I came here, I feared that I wouldn’t be capable of doing that.

“Having done it so well in Roland Garros, I felt that there were an expectation and people wanted it to go fine for me, they want to participate in the matches. But you have to be good. If you lose 2 and 1, the crowd won’t participate, and the logic would be that you would lose 2 and 1.

“So, I did my best and I feel lucky and I feel very happy to have played well here these two events.”