Rennes Open, until Sunday, at Liberté
We could be entitled to a Gasquet – Murray quarter-final in the Rennes Open quarter-final. It almost seems unbelievable for a Challenger tournament…
Yes, yes, the painting is sure to be exceptional! Already, the date is incredible for a Challenger because there is no ATP tournament at the same time. That’s what Murray is for, that’s what I’m here for. I’m really happy to play in France and Rennes.
You entered the draw. You shot yourself in the foot …
(He laughs) Draws for the table, I’ve done a lot, it’s sport, I especially hope that we can be in the quarter-finals, that I play a big game. And earn it.
Is it a plus for you to have Murray in this tournament?
This is a plus for the tournament. He’s won three Grand Slams, he’s the fourth best player of the past 20 years. Beyond that, it’s amazing to have a painting like this. I don’t think it will happen again in Challenger to have such a table. We have Pouille, Simon, Rinderknech. It’s incredible.
Apart from the painting, what made you come to Rennes?
I knew that the central was beautiful, that it was well organized, that matters. It’s always nice to come to a beautiful city and a beautiful central. And then the date is perfect because there is no ATP tournament this week. It’s the start of the indoor season, there will be a lot of tournaments behind. It’s perfect to get started here. That’s why there are so many players. And there, all the matches will be difficult, I will be keen to win.
What relationship do you have with Rennes and Brittany?
I do not know. I haven’t been here since Auray, when I was a kid. We have never been to the Davis Cup. Rennes is a very beautiful city, the welcome is great.
Lucas Pouille lives part of the year in Rennes. Is he going to show you around?
With tournaments, we don’t have too much time, there are matches, then you have to recover, then more matches. It’s rare to visit in a tournament. As soon as we lose, we go to another tournament. But if I can do it in Rennes, I will.
We have been talking about the Rennes Open since the announcement of Murray’s presence. But we were already talking about it since your name appeared. How do you cope with this popularity?
Tennis is an important sport, especially in France with Roland-Garros. People have been talking about me since I was very young, people are happy to see us, I have always been supported, I see him here where I had never been. It’s true that I’ve been known since I was very young, but I don’t play for that, it’s the passion for the game that drives me, even if I’m not very young anymore.
Two nicknames have stuck to your skin since the start of your career, “the little Mozart” and the “Musketeer” in reference to the Davis Cup. Are we telling you again today?
“The little Mozart”, not too much anyway, it must be recognized. But when I was 16, I was told. It’s very difficult, when you start a career, when you are young, still in training… It was very, very hard for me. “Musketeer” was a nod because there were four of us in the Davis Cup, it was a journalist’s thing that didn’t bother me. The other was harder to wear.
You are 35 years old, what do you think of the rest of your career?
It can end quickly, I don’t know when. I still play a lot, I win games. Physically, it’s not easy to stay in shape. I’ve been playing at a high level for 20 years, it’s already incredible, I never thought I would play for so long. The body is not totally the same, but I still have a passion for the game, I enjoy playing, being in a tournament, having been able to play Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open by playing three times on the central. It’s always good feelings, that’s what I play for. But the end can come at any time, it hasn’t gone far this year with the problems I’ve had.
The idea is above all to have fun, whether it’s in Challengers or big tournaments, or are it the big games?
The two. I’m happy to be in Rennes, and then there will be Bercy, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, US Open. Afterwards, it’s a lot of discipline, of effort to be in shape.
These sacrifices do not weigh you down after 20 years of career?
No because I like it, I have always had a passion for the game, and I try to do the best I can with what I have left.
We see that a generation shift is taking place in world tennis. Which young person impresses you the most?
Carlos Alcaraz (recent quarter-finalist at the US Open), it is the strongest, it is clear. I said that even when he wasn’t very good at the start of the season. He has got everything.
Today, the French of your generation, like Nicolas Mahut and Arnaud Clément, are tournament directors. Nicolas Escudé is DTN after being captain of the Fed Cup …
(He cuts). I don’t know what I’ll do next, I didn’t ask myself the question, I want to play a little more. The future does not scare me, I have had a long career and I have no frustration. We will see what presents itself, in tennis or elsewhere. I think I’ll take some time for myself because for the last 20 years I haven’t had time.
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