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Le Coq Sportif

 I know I have got it

Press (English)Puschkin a écrit : "Richard Gasquet, French Number 1 in tennis, is certain of his talent and his will to succeed

The interview was taken on 22 My 2007 and published in L'Equipe on 29 May 2007.

Why do you love tennis?
There are many reasons. Firstly, as for everybody practising a sport, there is pleasure and joy. Since I have been very young, I had my best memories connected to sports facilities. Even when I played football or rugby. At the age between ten and fourteen, I did more “drops” than forehands. I enjoy hitting beautiful strokes. This is the part of the game which pleases me. And then – one has his idols: Sampras, the Béziers rugby team….

If you had not become a professional sportsman what would you have done in your life: rather an engineer or an artist?
I liked maths. If I had put all the efforts I put in tennis in my studies, it would have given quite a good result. I was not bad [at school] when I was young.

Recently you took up courses again….
I try to do some things with “Sciences Po” (quite a prestigious political science school in France). They send me dossiers, e.g. during the Davis Cup about Russia’s history or to learn English properly. I have just started. I try to open myself up a bit, to get out of the world of tennis which is very closed. By doing so you get out of your stuff in an intelligent way instead of playing play station.

Was it your idea?
Yes. On the tour, you can numb yourself in a way which should not be allowed, you are so much in your own bubble. At the hotel, the ranking, the ATP points, your match tomorrow. You can become crazy, gaga.

Did you never think about continuing your normal studies?
No, with the exception of three years ago when I was about 18. I did not play very well. It was bizarre. I did not even have the certainty to hit two balls after each other into the court. I had no confidence in myself: adolescence is tough. One can ask oneself always hundreds of questions. You can get very fast into a coil. At that time, my parents told me: If you want, we can register you at mid term at the “Lycée Fontaine”. I said to myself: Why not? And then, I started playing better immediately.

Even with your talent, one can doubt to like that to such an extent?
I doubt every day. Always. I have always been doubting. It is not easy to be called a great talent at the age of 16 or 17 and then to start losing. You ask yourself questions as soon as you start losing. …This is not obvious.

Do you think that this period of your life is comparable to the one Gael Monfils is just travelling through?
It is exactly the same thing. I doubted until a certain moment whether Gael would go through something like that, because you have to go through it. Either you are a strong guy and get out of it or it will kill you for your whole career. One has to be strong. Gael is. He will get out. Tennis is being strong in your head.

During the Rome tournament you said that you read everything which is written about you. Wouldn’t it be better to ignore it?
Yes, but I have always read L’Equipe, since I was very young. You must always know if the people like what you are doing, see their expectations. And then, every time there is an article, I know on the same day, that the people think the same. You (the journalists) have enormous power. It is not easy for a player to read certain things. I am rather sensitive, I am not rock-solid.

When you want to forget tennis, what do you do?
It is only for two weeks: one in summer and one after Bercy. In summer, I am going to play golf with friends in the south of France. Every other evening, I go to bed on time. One has no choice. As soon as my head gets out of tennis, I know that the tournament is dead. To have success, it is really necessary to think about nothing else.

What do you expect from the 15 days to come?
To get the second week. I never did that (in Paris). And getting there rather fresh. Then, anything can happen. I know that I am capable of doing nice things. The first two rounds are very important in order not to lose too much strength (“jus”).

You say anything can happen. Really anything?
I am not saying to be the winner. It would mean beating Nadal and Federer after each other. I don’t have the results to say that. Finalist neither. But a QF or a SF, this is by and large conceivable. I have already reached the 4th round of a GS four times. This should not be a hold-up (???)

You often refer to the pleasure of playing. Can one take pleasure from professional sports?
Yes, in great matches, when I play well. On the other hand, if there are large crowds and you play badly, that’s the worst of all. Then, it is terrible.

For being a champion isn’t it also necessary to take pleasure out of pain (hard work)? Do you manage?
Yes, that’s clear. I manage a bit better than before. If one takes Federer or Nadal as reference, it is tough, but one has to get closer. One of my aspects of progress is, that even if things go badly, I manage to hang in. If you finish a match and you are tired, when it has been tough and you have fought, and when you win in – then you are proud of yourself.

Would you be able to be satisfied with your career without winning a GS?
(He thinks). I don’t know. I’d love to win a GS. I think I am capable of doing it. I progress at my own speed, certainly, but I am still young. I have man years in front of me. Not to win one would be a disappointment. But if I give it 100% and if I don’t manage, then it is because I was not strong enough – quite simple.

The fact of being the best in all categories of youngsters and not being so at the age of 20 – is that tough to live with?
Nadal had his start at 17 or 18. You compare yourself still a bit with him. But he is an extraterrestrial, a genius of combat. Even Borg is nothing compared to him. With the current level of tennis, this is really unbelievable. You say: bravo. In hundred years to come, there won’t be guy like him. I consider myself rather at the level of Djokovic than of Nadal. In Estoril, I was quite close to him.

Listening to you, being close to you, one feels convinced that your time will come. Is that true?
I know that I have got it. I know that I will not let loose. I know that I will do everything to get there. I feel strong mentally to go there. I have already much experience, I feel that I progress. I know that I am well placed to win a GS.

Which one?
Wimbledon suits me well. It would be necessary that Federer declines, as long as he plays at that level, he will be difficult to defeat. But grass is the surface where I can express myself best and where the [other] players are less good.

And Roland Garros? When you were a kid, did you never imagine yourself to be on the way of winning it?
No. I never said to myself: I want to be exceptional, the best of the world. Maybe, this escapes me today, I don’t know. I always had the pleasure of playing, to hit the ball. I did not ask myself 10 000 questions.

Between a GS and the Davis Cup what would you prefer to win?
A GS. Tennis is an individual sport. But Davis Cup is superb, the audience is strongly behind you and it is within a team….

In spite of that, since your last meeting with Russia, one has the impression that something broke between you and Guy Forget. Has this been sorted out?
Not really. If you read that you had not made progress the last six months, one can not say that this is giving you a lot of pleasure. Besides, it will be necessary to put things in perspective again.

It might happen that before the next encounter the players will have to speak out about the name of the captain. Would you vote for Forget?
This.. (embarrassed), I don’t know.

Before the encounter, Guy “hammered” about you being a real leader?
I did not like that either. During the training week or the month before, I had the impression of being Federer, Zidane and Ronaldinho united. And then, after [the defeat] I did not even have the level to play Futures. This change, it is not good.

In that context: Are you aware that you have become a “figure” in French tennis? On one side, one has the impression that Christian Bimes wants to use you to get rid of Forget. On the other hand, Arnaud Lagardère makes you the hero of his club, and his companies.
Yes, that’s clear. If I – to extrapolate extremely - left Lagardère today, it would give them a bad image. This can be hard to bear, but I manage easier now to see it in a more abstract way because I know I have already done honourable things. But I am capable to do much better, I am convinced. That’s why I will do everything to move even higher.

Even leave your cap?
I‘ll give you sensational news (He shows his short hair). I will play without cap, it started disturbing me… yes, yes, that’s true. I will play without cap.

Are you in agreement with the view that tennis is mainly a sport of fighting?
It is about 80 % fighting. Technique comes often after the fight.

You are nice and friendly. Don’t you sometimes think you might want to seem tougher?
It is true that the guys are more afraid of my talent than my image.

And the day this won’t work….
We’ll see.

For some players, tennis is war.
One can’t say that for Federer tennis is war. I will always be closer to Federer than to Hewitt. Federer has found the perfect balance. It happened when he was about 22 or 23, when he got rid of his mistakes. He took an exceptional turn.

Another difficulty with tennis is applying the good intentions in practice, e.g. to advance more on a court. Is it a physical, technical or mental difficulty?
It has been simply, since two years, when I started working with “Deblick”, I just made a year of “crap”. It was ridiculous. I did pass……

A year of doubt?
Yes, the year of the US Open 2004, I try to forget. It gives me cold shudders, it was tough. It was violent. And then you say: you place the ball, you don’t take crazy risks, you hit the ball into the court. It has worked very well. I have programmed the hard disc. This was good to climb up to 15. It was necessary to structure myself according to a game plan. Now I have one which makes me play well. But to go beyond that level, it is necessary to be more daring. And Federer, too, when he plays Nadal, one asks oneself, why he remains so much at the back. Tennis is such a mental sport, if something is in your head…

You also start matches slowly?
I am still very tight when I enter the court at big tournaments. That’s the fear to disappoint. It is not easy to forget the regard of the others. There are moments when you say: Shit, imagine, that it starts badly, that I don’t take confidence, that the other guy starts playing well, that the crowd starts whistling….

When you think about your victory against Federer in Monte Carlo 2005: at that time did you imagine that it would be so difficult?
Yes. It is a huge effort, but a great pleasure, I would not change it for anything in the world. Perhaps the image “He has talent, but he does not do everything” was right. But, really, since two years, believe me, I really do everything. It is necessary to destroy this image.

The image of talent, are you sick of it?
Today, there is more work than talent. Maybe this is why my game is less intuitive than earlier. It is necessary that I find the right mix between the two. This is a crucial thing. It will come. The season is long, I am 15 at the race. But now, it is necessary to find again the lightness which allows winning. This pleasure to do great things. This is what Federer has done. Take the ball earlier, to impose oneself a bit more, this will allow me to win a great tournament.

translated by Puschkin



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