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Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

Semifinals

 

Mens semifinals day at the last Grand Slam tournament of the year has come. The players face many questions. How do you cope with this situation and how to behave on court? Relaxed, but also confident and determined, knowing clearly what to do, but also ignoring things and finally, how to enjoy the moment and let go? Also Richard Gasquet will ask these questions.

 

In my careeer I was also lucky enough to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and really enjoyed it. Back in 1988 against Swedish Jonas Svensson. I’ve played a perfect match that day, attacked constantly and took a lot of risks. I was very calm, had my tactics and even if the world would have collapsed, it wouldn’t have changed one thing. I was so focused. I had to "conquer", I knew that this was my day, my match and especially my chance to reach the final of Roland Garros!

 

As every day I prepared myself with a great warm-up at the Racing Club de France not far from Roland Garros. A little warm up with my coach Wojtek Fibak. He was the coach of Ivan Lendl in the 80’s. Well, so I made it to the Roland Garros semifinals.

A lot of people were already there at Roland Garros when I’ve arrived. I went into the locker room to change, prepare my rackets and go through the final instructions with my coach. The things he said were very clear: attack, take control of the game from the first to the last point knowing that you win points even if you make a couple of mistakes. 

 

The aim was to behave like in a boxing fight, to act and react when needed, without too much thinking, to accept the challenge of the game and then do everything to win.

 

I still remember those intense moments. This incredible feeling almost as if you’re  dazed. Like you could predict what is going to happen. Everything seems to be simple, but incredible. Reminds me of the 1991 Davis Cup match against Pete Sampras in Lyon. But that's another story ...

 

In this semi-final I was able to use all my resources to the point and always had exactly the right solution, it was incredible. I won the match and suddenly found myself in the final against Mats Wilander (the first semi-final Novak Djokovic against Stanislas Wawrinka is in progress, by the way). It was fabulous. Despite my loss in the final we are good friends now working together at Eurosport.

 

After 4 hours and 9 minutes the match of Novak Djokovic against Stanislas Wawrinka comes to an end, Novak wins in 5 sets. A crazy match, more intense than at the Australian Open. Hope this has no effect on the play of Richard Gasquet  who is still waiting in the player area.

 

The match begins, unfortunately I don’t comment it on Eurosport.

 

At the beginning Richard seems to be very nervous. But this is normal, he tries to play aggressively and harass Rafa. It is interesting that he goes to the net a lot more and tries his luck there. This is very positive, also for the future.

 

I admire the mental strength of Richard. Although he lost the first set he brings back the serve of Rafa. But as usual Rafa is getting stronger and stronger and wins 7-6. Rafa outplayed him in the third set, Richard had no more strength.

 

Richard can be very proud of this tournament. He achieved everything and has shown to the other players that he’s become much stronger and one can count on him in the future.

 

Richard, keep it up and keep on fighting on as you've shown, that's the important thing.

 

Bravo!

 

 




Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

Relax, Richard

 

Flushing Meadows, my 15th day in New York. I think about how Richard Gasquet is preparing for his semi-final ... What he is doing on his preparation day and how I’ve spent these days when I was an active player. 

 

In fact this day is not like any other. Especially if you are in the second week of a Grand Slam tournament and not playing on any day in Flushing Meadows. And even more when you are in the semifinals.

 

As I arrived at the tournament today I could feel that the hectic all around has been greatly reduced. There are far less people in the locker room compared to the anthill of the first days when you hardly can find a place for your stuff or to sit down. At the end of the tournament – in the semifinals – one is alone with the coach. This locker room is now a big one and suddenly you feel special. But at the same time it is also hard. The feeling is indescribable.

 

You understand that this is a unique moment and you say to yourself: "There are only four players in this tournament now and I'm one of them!" A fantastic feeling. But the pressure is increasing. Everyone is there now. Media, sponsors and new best friends. All the people who have of course always believed in you. They are so nice to you. I hate them.

 

In short, it is a crucial moment, you have to stay focused, do everything as you always do. Exactly the same things like at the beginning of the tournament, the same routine. Don’t get overwhelmed by this feeling but keep the goal in mind to stay focused. It is your 8th game of the tournament.

 

On this day of rest we try to regenerate. Please do not forget the massage. Also do exercises that are good for the muscles and the interplay of forces.

 

9:30h, time to get up. Breakfast ’til 12 o’clock. After that a bit of muscle training in the gym or outside. Then a light snack and by 3 o’clock heading to the stadium. Tennis training at 4.

 

Today it’s very important to play the ball clean. Compared to a pianist it’s like the before his big concert.

 

From my experience it’s that you constantly ask yourself: Is it possible for me to play well tomorrow? You have to focus and concentrate, then everything will be fine.

 

After one hour of training, again back to the locker room. Showers and a good massage.

 

Then interviews, answering the many questions.

 

Stay modest and remain highly concentrated. The only important thing is the next match, other things don’t matter.

 

Try to dine early on the eve of the game and then go to bed, sleep tight and good.

 

That's how I 've seen it, my experiences. I hope Richard Gasquet has recovered well and will show the same excellent tennis with whom he has beaten David Ferrer.

 

He has the talent, it only took longer. Don’t think about Rafael Nadal now. To hide is the best solution. Believe in your strength and your fate. Push problems aside. This is not Roland Garros but Flushing Meadows. The American crowd wants to see a good match.

 

Allez Richard, You can do it and we dream ...

 

I believe!

 





Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

The Conversion of Richard Gasquet

 

Flushing Meadows, the fourth of September, 2013. At 05.15h local time Richard Gasquet won his match against David Ferrer in five sets and is now in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. We have seen a very good match with a lot of clarity and courage that he unfortunately has not too often shown in his career so far.

 

Everyone knew that he has the talent to play like that. And I've been waiting for that for a long time. I think Richard has to better understand himself to get ahead, and he has to suffer. Because if you're as talented as he is, you have to take the right decisions, surround yourself with the right people, step back from your family and take risks.

 

You have to look at other players. For example Rafael Nadal. Richards childhood friend who has won many Grand Slams. But not Richard. It is not easy but Richard, you know, you can do that too! Ask the right questions to yourself. Why he and not me? Alwas keep that in mind, it needs to be written in your head!

 

I can understand that situation completely. During my time I had almost the same doubts, the same fears. To me it was my mate Thierry Tulasne. We were the same age but he advanced a lot sooner than I did. The press said to me: "You're wasting time, Thierry is already in the top 10 in the world and you're still number 50!" It is not easy to stand this pressure, but it has also motivated me!

 

You need to take your time. Some players have their breakthrough earlier than others. Different personalities, different characters. And Richard needs time to better understand. He also had to grow and develop.

 

It’ss true that I was not always fair to him, my comments were sometimes too hard and came too early. Mea Culpa! I am a big mouth and I also have to learn every day!

 

He has won his match two days before against Milos Raonic in five sets and even had a match point. And now he defeated David Ferrer in 5 sets. This is the proof that Richard has definitely been working on himself and he now is a great player.

 

Now the other players on the tour will respect him even more. They are afraid of him because he has shown that he is no longer the just nice player who sometimes gives up. But he’s a true fighter.

 

On Saturday Richard will play his semifinal against THE Spaniard and he will give everything.

 

Richard, we thank you and we all dream with you of more. Go on like that, it will be more than 2 matches ...

 

Congratulations and all the best!

 

 





Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

Oldies but Goldies

 

10:55h, Times Square, it's a beautiful day and later on the list he match Richard Gasquet v David Ferrer. I am looking forward to this one!

I get out of the taxi at 11:45h. While in the car i was on the phone all the time so I missed to tell the driver where I wanted to get out. No worries, guess it’s good for me to do a walk ... about 1 mile or so :-)))


So I walk towards Flushing Meadows West Gate. Today is good weather, not too hot with a very pleasant breeze. Thanks God no rain in sight. We had enough rain the last few days ...
 
Arriving at the West Gate I meet Jeremy Bates (a very good English player of the 80s and 90s, he lost against Guy Forget in Wimbledon 1/8 finals even though he had match ball if I remember correctly). Jeremy is a very nice guy and he speaks very good French which is not too common for a British guy. Nowadays he is working with the French Tennis Federation FFT and is engaged in the promotion of young talents. We talked about our shared memories. Was nice to meet him here!

While walking I’m on the phone with my friend, journalist Hervé Pouchol who stayed in Paris. We talk about the new school year, which I missed this year with my children, media reports from the war zone and the latest news.
 
It's about noon and I go through security as every day. Then I suddenly see a guy in front of me that I know very well. It is John McEnroe geared up with New York cap, sunglasses, a nice suit and sneakers. The truly American look!

 

John McEnroe is one of the biggest personalities in tennis with a unique character. He can be unbearable on court, you know his temper tantrums. He often disagreed with the umpire’s decision, argueing with him and he was sometimes mad at me or the others guys who played against him 

 

It's always hard to play against him. You have to have good self control. Although I always lost against him on the ATP Tour, the wheel has now turned a little in my favor on the ATP Champions Tour. I've even won a couple of times against him. John is an extraordinary player with a very special charisma, his facial expressions and especially his atypical play inspired the audience. We do owe him a lot. Tennis has reached a new level because of guys like him and players like Borg, Nastase, Connors ...

 

Fans and sponsors pay a fortune to see these guys play and they are thrilled. Apparently there is also a lot of respect for me. It’s because of my personality and my strong point as ‚shot maker’ Boris Becker told me. According to Boris I am a player who invented shots – such as my high backhand volley. I have to admit that this made me feel proud!

 

John was more than very good on court and to me he is also one of the best TV commentators, with his direct and relevant match analysis. Meeting with John McEnroe is always very nice, I enjoy it very much.

 

It 's noon and I arrive at Eurosport. I bump into another player I really do appreciate. I have good experiences with him, but also my worst. It's Mats Wilander, my tormentor ... the one that has defeated me in the 1988 Roland Garros final. My nightmare. Every year at Roland Garros I keep on guessing what if I would have won the match. But we can’t change the match and the history,too. Mats is the winner of this to me unique French Open final.

 

We meet every day at Eurosport. He is doing his show ,Game, Set, Mats' and I do mine – ‚Avantage Leconte'. We are very close, discuss many of the matches and have become friends!

 

12:30h. The first ladies quarterfinal is coming to an end when Pedro, head of the show, ‚Game, Set , Mats' asks me to do an interview with Mats and Barbara Schett (a former Austrian player and now Eurosport commentator). It’ about the quarterfinal match of Richard Gasquet v David Ferrer. Oh, gotta go there now!

 

To end with: Allez Richard, you’re gonna make it!!

 

 




Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

(Sir) Roger Federer

 

Let’s talk about Roger Federer, the man who holds all the records. 17 Grand Slam titles are among his very long list of achievements ... A world of it’s own!

 

This exceptional player with his impressive talent, the tennis dream everybody wants to copy. His unique, distinctive style. His play is so good and beautiful to look at. You get the impression that he is playing his best tennis, and it 's terrible when he misses simple shots.

 

Roger is an exceptional player not only because of his own play, because of his charisma and aura, too.

 

Never a bad word, always with respect to his opponents even in difficult situations. I've never seen him angry in a match or he was hiding it very well. That is his strength and it was his strength that now left him at the U.S. Open.

 

Roger is simply world class. The way he moves on court, just fabulous, his outfits always accurate, an absolute dream come true.

 

So, when Mr. Roger Federer loses a match or is not playing so well, then you can hear voices now saying that his career is over or he would be too old. These guys slightly forget what he has achieved in his incredible career. In addition to that we are talking about the world No. 7 in the current ATP rankings!

 

The behavior and comments towards him are irreverent and very unfair. The problem is that everyone is used to it that he always wins. If he is not winning, which is more than normal, criticism comes from those who prayed beforehand that he would win.

 

Roger Federer is an incredible player with his normal problems, physical or psychological. He is like you and me except for one difference: HE is a true champion.

 

It is a dream when he comes on court. He will remain in our memories as the one who has perfected various tennis strokes. He takes e.g. a volley with ease and plays the ball through the legs. Everything seems to be easy for him.

 

We respect Roger Federer for all his work and sacrifice. Thanks to Roger tennis got more popular and addictive – a new dimension in tennis.

 

Another incredible player: Rafael Nadal. Crazy matches we’ve experienced mid-2000. Roland Garros and Wimbledon –epic fights between the two we were have been allowed to witness.

 

I can not and don’t want to imagine that ends his career now. This year is definitely the worst season for him. He will respond, it may not remain so. I have tremendous confidence in him.

 

His dream is to take part at the next Olympics, not to mention the Davis Cup.

 

Roger, do not grieve, please do us a favor and fight back. You have nothing more to prove yourself, do not listen to those idiots who say that you were at the end of your career.

 

You're the best in the world – with all due respect for Novak, Rafa, Andy and the others.

 

 

We believe in you.

 

Go Roger!

 

 

 

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