Gilles Simon takes lonely road to the top :Maharashtra Open - <b>Technical Lobby</b>

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Gilles Simon takes lonely road to the top :Maharashtra Open

Gilles Simon needed to do something drastic to revive his career. He had been going through a torrid time in the 2017 season, and would eventually drop from a world rank of 25 at the start to 89. So in September, the 33-year-old decided to tackle the already lonely tennis tour solo.

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“I decided to be alone after the US Open,” said the introspective Frenchman, who was looking for an upward swing in his steadily dwindling career. And in Pune, he’s found that spark in the very first week of the 2018 season.

Playing against Kevin Anderson, in the singles final of the Tata Open Maharashtra, Simon cut the towering 6-foot-8 South African down to size with a 7-6, 6-2 win. It was his first ATP title since his win at the Marseille Open in February 2015, and his maiden victory over Anderson in four meetings.

“It was a tough call to go alone and travel alone and come to India alone,” he says. “Not many players do this, so it’s nice to get some kind of reward for that.”

But there was not much time for him to celebrate the win. Barely an hour after scripting the win over the 2017 US Open finalist, Simon teamed up with compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the doubles final. But he was unable to continue his winning streak, falling to Dutch pair Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop 6-7, 6-7.

“Players like them (Cilic and Anderson) drop bombs from that height and get 20 free points that I cannot,” Simon said after his semi-final win against Cilic. “I will never be able to win if I think about that, so I just focus on what I can do and what my strengths are.”

Seemingly languid and composed on court, the former world no 6, asserts that he actually never is. “I’m never relaxed when I’m on court. I look much more relaxed than what I am, so when I say I’m tired nobody understands,” he says.

But there was no mistaking the intensity to his game, nor the deception in his play, as he’d switch the pace and depth of his shots at will to whittle down Anderson’s challenge.

For a player who has beaten the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the past, the 2017 season steadily pushed him down the world rankings, and into the 80s – where he has never been since 2006. “Last season was difficult and I was hurting on the confidence side. I’m still far from perfect and my best.” In Pune though, the rested, refreshed Simon was at his battling best. Having arrived in India for the first time, all alone, he left lonely at the top.
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