Gilles Simon has long been one of the most vocal players on the men’s tour, speaking his mind out on a host of topics - with special focus on Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the French Tennis Federation. The Frenchman has now gone a step ahead and written an entire book documenting his life and thoughts from the tour.
While the book itself is scheduled to release on 28 October, an excerpt that has been released sees Simon criticizing the French Tennis Federation and using the example of Rafael Nadal to prove his point.
This particular excerpt has been released by WeLoveTennis.fr on the occasion of Rafael Nadal winning his 13th title at Roland Garros. In the extract, Gilles Simon provides a critical analysis of the workings of the French Tennis Federation and showers immense praise on Rafael Nadal at the same time.
The least we can say is that Rafael Nadal’s career is phenomenal: Gilles Simon
Rafael Nadal has completely overshadowed his French counterparts in their own country over the past decade and a half. The Spaniard has won 13 of the last 16 titles on offer in Paris, which not only shows his dominance but also paints a rather bleak picture of the French Tennis Federation.
The last time a Frenchman lifted the title at Roland Garros was in 1983, when Yannick Noah emerged victorious. Since then only one other final has featured a Frenchman - Henri Leconte in 1988.
Gilles Simon blames the training system in place for that. He pointed out that even someone as great as Rafael Nadal would have been forced to change his playing style if he had been coached by the Federation.
“To the time of this writing, Rafael Nadal won 12 Roland Garros by returning eight meters behind the baseline and with rounded trajectories,” Simon wrote. “If he had gone through the French federal structure, we would probably have changed him everywhere.”
The unwillingness to defend from the back of the court is perhaps what explains the poor recent record of male French players on clay, especially at their home Grand Slam. While they do better on faster surfaces, their game is not particularly well-suited to the demands of clay-court tennis.
At most facilities in France, players are given their initial training on hardcourt. Rafael Nadal on the other hand trained intensively on clay in his formative years, given the dominance of the surface in Spain.
Gilles Simon sounded grateful that Rafael Nadal’s career turned out the way it did, calling it ‘phenomenal’.
“Certainly, one could retort to me that it would have changed for the better, nobody can know that," Simon continued. "But let's say that as it stands, the least we can say is that his career is phenomenal, right?”Published 16 Oct 2020, 16:09 IST