That’s it. I’m leaving my life as we know it behind, picking up my rackets, and going pro. That’s right. Straight to the ATP Tour.
OK not really, but with every single match Gilles Simon wins, that desire grows stronger.
Before this, his breakout 2008 campaign, Simon was a virtual unknown outside of die-hard tennis fan circles. Even now he has to be the least-known player inside the top 20. It goes without saying that he is far from a fan favorite. Not because he is a bad guy or anything (he actually seems like quite a good guy), but because he rarely hits jaw-dropping shots, rarely shows emotion, and until this summer, rarely won anything of importance. In other words, Simon is not exactly an inspiration to the average tennis watcher.
No, Simon is an inspiration to the average tennis player. He is living example of you can win at the highest level of tennis by keeping balls in play and fighting as hard as you possibly can until the chair umpire tells you the match is over with a simple “Game, set, and match” phrase that is only outdone in simplicity by Simon’s game.
Those two key elements-refusing to miss shots and refusing to give up on any point or any match until it is over-have propelled Simon to three ATP titles this year to go along with a Masters Series semifinal showing in Toronto and now a Masters Series title match appearance in Madrid. They have also propelled him to a borderline shocking Top 15 ranking.
That’s right, folks. I’m here to tell you that Simon has done all of this by 1) trying, and 2) hitting balls over the net, between the alleys, and inside the baseline.
And now the good news for all the Average Joe tennis players out there: anyone who has ever picked up a tennis racket is capable of performing those two basic tasks. Sure, some can do task #2 a lot better than others, but anyone can come close to perfecting task #2 by doing a lot of task #1.
If you aren’t convinced, I implore you to watch a Simon match and continue to watch more and more Simon matches until you are ready to abandon your previous job and hit the circuit. I was almost ready after witnessing every single stroke of his clash with Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open (which Simon lost in five sets). Now I think I’m ready. Madrid, for me, is the last straw.
Consider: Simon has won five matches this week, four of them in third-set tiebreakers. He saved five match points against Igor Andreev by hitting ball after ball back to Andreev on the match points until the Russian missed. He saved two match points against Ginepri, outlasting the American on both after brutally long rallies in which Simon hit (some would say “pushed”) ball after ball in the court until Ginepri finally obliged with an error. As if that wasn’t enough, on Saturday he swindled Rafael Nadal (yes, the No. 1 player on the planet) into playing his let’s-see-who-can-keep-the-most-balls-in-play war of attrition. By now you know that it was Simon who won that war.
And that war has done it for me. It’s convinced me to go pro. Now I ask anyone who has ever given 100 percent on a tennis court and has ever struck a ball successfully over the net to go with me. If you can do that, you are invited.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that it wouldn’t hurt to have Simon’s flawless return of serve, screaming two-handed backhand down the line, world-class speed, nerves of steel, and heart of a champion. But what the heck, those are just minor details. Let’s go!