I was young and for me it was only a game and a passion – and not a job. But it started becoming more serious because everyone was expecting me to play good and I lost my passion. Two years ago I decided to be alone, without a coach, and become spontaneous again. We had some really good moments and it was tough to tell him I need to breathe without him and be by myself and try to find my love again for the game. But I did that and I feel happy.
After I beat Lleyton Hewitt, I was so happy. Lleyton was the defending champion and had won it [four] times before. I was 120 in the world and I knew beating Lleyton would take me into the top 100 for the first time. One of my goals was to be in the top 100 – just once! So I did this celebration and the crowd loved it.
I wish I could’ve played 30 years ago. It was the best time to be a tennis player. Older players like Henri Leconte or Yannick Noah always tell me this. They had a lot of fun. Now it’s not possible because it is so professional and there is so much money.
After I beat Federer [in straight sets in the quarter-finals] I tried to stay away from the papers and TV. So I go back to my hotel and I won again. I ask Roger [Rasheed]: ‘What’s happening tomorrow, what time do we practise? I’m not going out in the street so nobody told me how the country was going crazy.
When I was young I dream about playing Roland Garros before a full crowd. I dream about beating a big guy on a centre court like Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Maybe that was the highest moment for me because I was two sets down and I came back to win.
I’m now 28. I have just a few more years left. It’s now or never!’ But at the end of my career, even if I don’t have a big trophy, I can say: ‘OK, I beat Roger. I beat Novak. I beat Andy …
I come from the countryside in France and it’s completely different to this life. My parents weren’t rich at all. They were normal people and even now it’s special for me to be in big hotels and have all the attention. I never get used to it! My parents always taught me not to be a good tennis player or the best in what I’m doing – but to be polite. And so even when I am tired or I lose I try to keep their values.
Sometimes when I lose people are so disappointed for me, I feel like someone in my family has a big problem the way they look at me.
I hope I will have a family. A house, with a garden, will be nice. And I would love a barbecue! Just very simple things and a passion to work hard.
It’s important to stay normal and live in the real world.
In France we are very quiet. And that is why I was quiet outside, but on the court I am like a lion.
It’s never easy to play against someone you like.
I’m French No. 1. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m still learning on the tournament. I’m a young chick, if I could say, on the tournament. But it’s good because I’m an outsider and I can therefore try and aim for excellent performances.
The French Open is one of the principal reasons why I fight day in, day out. You play with your heart, so I have no filter.
I’m not a bad loser. I have a lot of respect for who beats me and that’s it.
For us it’s good if one Frenchman can win a Grand Slam. Of course, I want to win a Grand Slam. But if Richard or Gaël or Gilles win a Grand Slam, I will be happy for them and it will be good for the French tennis. So that’s it.
My goal is to be at the highest possible. I know Noah was at three but this is not a competition, I am just trying to do my best. If I can reach a better ranking then it would mean that I played well.
Tennis players do not really have a lot of spare time but I enjoy being with my childhood friends and going fishing.
I do a lot of conditionning in the off season with my coach but there a lot of exercise and they are specific to each individual.
The serve is the only thing you know about yourself when you play tennis. If you make it right, you make it right. Nobody can touch you when you serve. Nobody can disturb you. You have the ball in the hand.
A tennis match is always – you know, sometimes you play well, your best tennis on two games and not on three games. It’s like this. Tennis, it’s never a straight line.
Through Attrap La Balle, I really take to heart helping children in need in Congo, which is like my second country. I know this money will be wisely spent in helping kids to develop not only their sporting skills but also general life skills.
After I won in Surbiton, I had a beer. I remember it because I was like this. I’m not used to beer. But Eric (his coach Eric Winogradsky) told me that, after winning, I have to drink it. So I had one beer and I was completely drunk. It was great.
The most intense period for me was making the final of Australia in 2008 when I was 40 in the world or, even more, when I beat Roger in the quarters at Wimbledon [in 2011]. The most exciting things are when you reach something you always dream about.
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