Major Talk #10 – Gilles Simon: A deep dive into a player’s mind

In Major Talk #10, Alizé Lim chats to Gilles Simon about his fitness regime, decision-making in tennis and what separates the top players from the rest.

January 23, 2021
The figures

Nearing the end of his career aged 36, Gilles Simon hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

Asked by Alizé Lim in the latest edition of Major Talk how he is feeling physically, the former world No 6 who goes by the nickname “Gillou” lets out his familiar grin as he replies, “I’m losing a bit of my mobility…because of my youth!”

One of the tour’s veterans and now an author, Simon admits to changing his routines in an effort to make things more interesting.

“When you are doing speed workouts, it’s always a little more fun than running around in the woods, or weight training.,” said the Frenchman. “That’s a little more boring, too. It’s a bit more games, reactions, etcetera.”

“I’d like to feel as good on the court as possible,” he later said. “Physically I was really a machine. I could spend twice as much energy as needed and still stay in the match. Now if I spend twice as much energy, even if it’s in a set, either I get hurt of can’t hold on.”

But while he is slowing down physically, understandably, Simon added that he is understanding the game better than ever. And a part of that means coming to grips with the fact that it’s okay to be nervous or scared on the court.

“The things I was afraid of five years ago, I was afraid of 10 years ago and 20 years ago. I react differently now because I recognise the situation,” he said.

He also recognises that not much separates the elite players from those who are lower ranked and will hardly ever play at the top tier. 

“How many matches have I played against players that are 200 or 300? I feel we are playing the same,” he said. “Then it comes to an important moment and I can maintain a level under pressure and it’s higher than him. And vice versa, when I play these guys, Novak (Djokovic), I lose 6-4 or 7-5 in the third. When we play each other we’re close but when it’s money time, what’s good about him is stronger than what’s good about me. So he finally wins. Same for Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal).”

Reflections on the 2019 Wimbledon men’s final

Speaking of the Big Three, Simon found it somewhat amusing that some second-guessed Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final when he held two match points on his own serve against Djokovic but didn’t capitalise. On one, he was passed after going to the net, though he didn’t serve and volley.

“I heard it so many times, ‘Why didn’t he serve and volley against Novak when he had his two match points?’ We’re not going to start questioning Federer’s choices in the important moments, are we? If anyone knows, it’s him…Federer doesn’t question it. He played his game. He’s won a lot of Slams by doing this.”

Like Federer, Simon is not done yet himself, and has beaten a top-10 player every year since 2006, as he noted. So who would he like to beat in 2021 to keep the streak going?

“Ok, Zverev,” Simon said after a pause, referring to the German who saved match points against him in Nice in 2016.

Watch the entire Major Talk interview with Gilles Simon and other episodes here, with the likes of Bianca Andreescu, David Goffin, Venus Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Elina Svitolina all sharing their thoughts on a variety of subjects. 

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