According to Gilles Simon, the reason why Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have been so successful is that their style of play today is the same as it was at the beginning of their careers. Simon believes that that is the single biggest difference between the Big 3 and someone like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has been forced to change certain aspects of his game because they were considered weaknesses.
Simon recently released his book, 'Ce sport qui rend fou (This sport makes you crazy)' in which he criticizes the French tennis system of tennis coaching. He also speaks extensively about Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the book, the excerpts of which have been released periodically over the last couple of months.
"When I saw the Roger Federers or Rafael Nadals play at the start of their careers, they played exactly like they play now," Simon said in an interview with Paris Match. "Today Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are stronger because they have improved in 15 years of their career, but their style is the same."
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic play their strongest shot at the important moments: Gilles Simon
Gilles Simon went on to explain that the French system focuses on improving the weaker parts of a player's game. But that, according to the former World No. 6, is counterproductive, and he cited the example of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet to prove his point.
"When I see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Richard Gasquet, they don't play like at 18 or 20," Simon said. "This is our system and it is our mistake. We look at what is wrong. In Jo's case, his backhand was his weak point, so we thought, we're going to get him to work on it. And he's going to win a Grand Slam. Reasoning that makes sense, but is completely false."
Simon believes that the top players such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic rely on their biggest weapons at critical junctures in a match, rather than use their spruced-up weaker areas.
"Take Rafael Nadal," Simon went on. "Has his service improved a lot since he was little? Are we sure that Novak Djokovic improved his volley considerably? I am not sure. And Roger Federer always has a better forehand than the backhand."
"The key, in my opinion, is that in important moments, the best will always play the stroke with which they feel the strongest," the Frenchman added. "For Jo, it's swinging a huge forehand. Certainly not to play a 15 stroke backhand rally. And I'm telling you: Jo can work as much as he wants, he won't beat me in a backhand rally. That's not what scares me about his game."