Gilles Simon and the art of a quiet resurrection | tennis | Hindustan Times
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Gilles Simon and the art of a quiet resurrection

Gilles Simon has made a strong start to 2018 after his tennis career went into a tailspin in the last two years

tennis Updated: Jan 07, 2018 19:28 IST
B Shrikant
Gilles Simon has resurrected his tennis career in recent months.
Gilles Simon has resurrected his tennis career in recent months.(HT Photo)

Gilles Simon’s tennis career took a turn for the worse towards the end of the year 2015.

Till a few months before that he had won an ATP tour title at home in Marseille, was part of the country’s Davis Cup team and was ranked 15th in world. Though it was lower than his best-ever ranking of No 6 in the world a few years back, he had still maintained his record of winning at least one title in a year and being in the top 20 since 2005.

But in the next two years, Simon’s career went into a tailspin, he lost his place in the Davis Cup team, dropped well below fifty in the rankings and the result was people were getting ready to write the epitaph of the tennis career of a player who had till then used his limited talent judiciously and rose to the top in his sport. In 2017, he had a win-loss record of 16-25.

But 2018 seems to have brought good tidings for him as the 33-year-old from France won the singles title and finished runner-up in doubles at the Tata Open Maharashtra on Saturday. He defeated South Africa’s World No 14 Kevin Anderson 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the final.

Unexpected triumph

When he came to Pune, Simon was only hoping to do well in singles, but at the end of the tournament he will take a lot of confidence from his unexpected success.

His counter-puncher style of play coupled with consistent shot-making and abundant stamina was bearing fruit once again and Simon, who was unable to consistently stitch together three wins in the same tournament last year, looked back in form. He devised smart strategies against strong opponents like Marin Cilic and Anderson and executed them successfully.

The 250 ranking points he bagged for his Pune triumph will help him leapfrog more than a few places in the rankings but what bodes well for him is the win against World No six Cilic in the semifinal. The way Cilic had started the match and taken a 5-0 lead, it looked like Simon would have to endure another disappointment. But the Frenchman lifted his game even as Cilic’s fell apart.

“I am very happy with the level I played and with how consistent I was in the tournament. Every title is super hard to win and doing so by beating players like Marin (Cilic) or Kevin (Anderson) so it just feels great no matter if the last one was last week or three years ago. It is very nice feeling (sic),” Simon told reporters after the match.

Cilic disappoints

While Simon ruled the roost, Cilic was happy to play a couple of good matches as he gears up for the Australian Open. He looked sharp in the win against below-100 players Ramkumar Ramanathan and Pierre-Hugues Herbert but his game fell apart against a smart counterpuncher like Simon. Still the fact that he did manage to play well for two matches and one set will keep him in a positive frame of mind for the bigger battles in Melbourne.

As far as the Indian contingent’s performance in the country’s line ATP 250 Series event goes, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan crossed the first hurdle but while the former blew a good chance to put it across Herbert the latter could not do much against Cilic.

In doubles, stalwarts like Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna disappointed but the make-shift combination of Bhambri and Divij Sharan managed to reach the semifinals and saved a semblance of pride.

The event was a grand success on the organisation front as it attracted good crowds on most days and there were not many hitches. Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association, the organisers, have promised to get a stronger field next year and it looks the tournament is likely to stay in Pune beyond the five years of the current deal.