To me, he was and had always been a defensive player, not very prone to play aggressive tennis. However, since last fall but most particularly since the beginning of this season, Frenchman Gilles Simon has brought a lot of improvement to his game and is now a much more offensive player, as I’ve been able to see for myself during his first-round match on Tuesday, a 6-3 7-5 win over Portuguese Rui Machado.
Of course, this comes with the downside of making more errors, something that we did not see that often previously, but at the same time, it makes watching his matches not only tennistically extremely interesting to follow, but very entertaining, as Simon has quite a temper and when he gets annoyed, he has a tendency to talk to himself, often in rather crude terms. Only Tuesday, I could hear him yelling at himself to stop always giving [Machado] the first point of the games, that he was too angry to play well, and so on.
Then again, I noticed that a lot of the French players have this trait, except perhaps Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who prefers singing to himself.
More errors, indeed, but a game that is by far more interesting and entertaining to watch from Simon, who did not fear coming to the net more often, and successfully. This I could also see for myself during his doubles match on Wednesday, when he and Jérémy Chardy defeated Paul Capdeville and Eduardo Schwank 6-2 6-2. Even though he prefered the baseline, letting his partner cover the net, almost each time he was going forward ended up in a winning shot.
Adapting to the opponent
When asked about his style of play after Tuesday’s match, Gilles Simon replied that he wasn’t very good at describing his own game, leaving that part to us (journalists, analysts of the game, fans). He then added that he attempted more often than not to adapt his game and strategy depending of his opponent.
This is defiinitely something that we have seen a lot from him over the years, of course, but I have to admit that him adding more aggressiveness to his tennis is really a treat for the eyes, more than the defensive style that used to characterize his game up until recently.
Then again, he did not stop being extremely defensive altogether, of course. However, he does not constantly do it or does not do it for the most part of a match like he used to, which makes for more entertaining matches. As Simon specified, he wants to get back to the top 10 within the near future. In order to do that, leaving the comfort zone of baseline/defensive play is, in my mind, a huge step in the right direction.
He did not get the call
After Tuesday’s match, I asked Simon why he did not play the Davis Cup tie in Vancouver against Canada (that France won 4-1). The reason was simple: Guy Forget simply did not call him.
Would he like to play Davis Cup? “Of course. But if he doesn’t call me, I wouldn’t want to impose myself either.”
Well, hopefully he does because he’s an asset that France may very well need in the not so distant future, especially if he’s fit and playing the way I’ve seen him play since the beginning of the season.