Gilles Simon is at peace with himself. You could get this impression at the NECKARCUP in Heilbronn. The 37-year-old Frenchman made a guest appearance at the award-winning ATP Challenger tournament this week, a few days after announcing he was retiring his impressive tennis career for the season finale after a good 20 years on the Tour circuit.
by Florian Heer in Heilbronn
last edited: 05/11/2022, 04:34 p.m
14 ATP tournament wins and almost 500 match successes are in Simon’s successful vita. In 2008, he broke into the top 10 in the world rankings after defeating then-No. 1 Roger Federer in Toronto and the “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal in Madrid. In January 2009 he achieved his best ranking with position 6.
Simon was at home on all the big courts in the world. From Melbourne to New York as an annual regular at the Grand Slams. And now Heilbronn. A decision that was no accident.
“I’ve never played here before. I like discovering new destinations,” explained a cheerful Simon at a round table at the beginning of the week on the grounds of TC Trappensee. “It’s my last season. The tournament in Heilbronn has an excellent reputation among the players and has been part of the tour for what feels like forever. So I am very happy to be here to compete here for the first and last time.”
Gilles Simon: “I’m not that constant anymore”
Since the public announcement of his intention to hang up his racquet, Simon has gone into relaxation mode. “It feels natural for me to stop now soon. Sure, I’m still able to play decent tennis, but not like I used to. I’m not that consistent anymore and the movements on the pitch aren’t getting any easier either. However, I still love to play and try to do my best for the remaining months.
Simon hints that the aches and pains aren’t getting any less. “I used to just get up, check where the ball is and off I went. Today all this is no longer so self-evident. It’s gotten harder. Besides, it’s useless to fight against time.”
Barletta as a special experience
However, Simon would like to have one or the other new experience and now only adjusts his tournament calendar to his own taste. Without the pressure of still having to get hold of one or the other world ranking point. A special experience befell him last month in a port city in southern Italy.
“I recently played for the Challenger in Barletta. The tournament took place in the same week as the Masters in Monte-Carlo,” Simon began to tell. “There, some French players asked me why I hadn’t tried to play in the much higher quality tournament in Monte-Carlo, to which I replied that I’ve played that tournament 15 times and I’m really happy to be in Barletta for the first time : Yes, it’s windy, the quality of the courts leaves a lot to be desired and the organization corresponds to all Italian clichés. But I was just happy to be in Barletta with the guys. As a tennis player, you come to many amazing places, but year after year. I like this new variety and maybe I would also like to understand why players complain about a tournament like Barletta for 25 years”, said a laughing and wildly gesticulating Simon.
A love for the green
Where Simon, who saw the light of day in Nice, will ultimately end his career is still in the stars. “I have a few tournaments in mind, but it won’t be the French Open for sure because I want to play on grass again. This is my favorite rubber and I enjoy it the most. I also want to compete in the US Open again. Metz is also on my list. I was able to win the tournament three times and it has a special place in my memories. Maybe the Masters in Paris-Bercy would be the right time. I grew up just ten minutes from the arena. This is my actual home tournament where I started pursuing professional tennis. It all depends on where I can get a wildcard though. This is not in my hands, but I am very relaxed about it.”
When asked about a certain highlight in his career, Simon replied: “The longer I play, the less I have one. I have dedicated so many years to this sport. But what is it actually about? Is it about performance on the pitch, is it about emotions, is it about having the best experience off the pitch? There are many things that will stay in my memory. But in the end, I only care about one thing: that I did my best while I could.”
However, Simon is “fed up” with airports, train stations and trips on the road and is looking forward to a quieter time at home.
“I don’t have any concrete plans for life after this. But I know that I want to spend a lot of time with my family,” says the father of two sons. “Due to the high number of trips, I missed a lot of their development. It often seemed to me that when I left the house they were still crawling and when I came back they were already running. This is the life of a tennis pro. I am now looking forward to being at home for a longer period of time. Then we’ll see what else happens.”
Gilles Simon is at peace with himself.