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!




Henri Leconte NYC & US Open



Let's talk about the media, what they do and how they spend their time during the tournament, but also how I feel about that.


To be a sports journalist is a job that I first had to discover, and it seemed to me to be much easier when I was a player on the tour. But the job of a sports journalist / presenter / commentator for Eurosport turned out to be different, not quite as easy and pleasant as I thought it would be.


From an outside point of view you can’t imagine how many difficulties you face and how much work it is to do print, radio or TV. Plus the reactions of the specialists in this sport. One example: Right before the end of a match, Daniel Benedict, journalist / presenter of Eurosport, had to end his on-court interview with Gael Monfils in order to be in time at the ‚Avantage Leconte’ show.


You do interview requests in advance of the TV shows, ask for approval of the male and female players from ATP and WTA and try to achieve a quick okay from them so that everything works out. It's not easy as it also depends on the willingness and mood of the players.


For radio journalists, it is a bit easier. They really do a great job and are also stressed out during the U.S. Open, too. You do have to wait a lot. At press conferences, then ask questions, take your notes and go to the office and work on it. It’s like that: A match again ended late at night, everyone is waiting for the subsequent press conference. Then the job starts again. Articles have to be written, TV shows to be prepared, produced and aired ...


I do have the greatest respect and feel happy to be a part of the media crew. And I have to say: Well done guys, what a great passion!


There are also interviews with coaches of players or interviews with ‚legends’ like me. Especially when it comes to French players. I enjoy that, I watch the matches and analyze them, try to identify the strategy. As fairly as possible and of course as objective as possible. Not easy!


It is true that I was not always nice to you journalists out there during my ATP career. But at least you’ve had a lot of fun with me. Now being on the other side is more complicated, a lot of players keep on saying the same things.


Nowadays I can understand your situation. Thank you for having me here with you.


See you


Henri Leconte NYC & US Open

Chicken Sandwich
New York City, the city that never sleeps, the most incredible city in the world! Some of you may think that as commentator and presenter I would be out there in the best restaurants and clubs every night. No, I'm not. Unfortunately. I do miss it ☺.
A city that lacks nothing. Restaurants, bars, cabarets and especially clubs. But even if you won’t believe it, my days are completely packed ’til end of the tournament.
Very long days because of the preparation and TV broadcasts for my show on Eurosport. In addition to that I comment the last matches of the evening with my friend Bertrand Millard.
As there were more night sessions the past days due to the weather it was always very late.
Thanks to floodlights many matches end by 1 o’clock at night. Sometimes even later like yesterday because of the match Lleyton Hewitt against Juan-Martin Del Potro.
After the matches, I leave immediately to catch the last bus to Manhattan. During the ride, me and Bertrand talk about the results of the day and what’s going to happen tomorrow. But often the most important issue is where to get a bite to eat. About thirty minutes later we arrive on 42nd street, it’s already half past one. Most of the time I walk back to my hotel on 36th Street and 5th Avenue. The whole time I think about food, I'm totally starving!
When passing Grand Central Station, I can see a group of people in front of a rolling restaurant. These very popular rolling restaurants are currently being introduced in Paris, too. And it smells so good! Grilled meat, chicken, vegetables, onions ... A lot of people lining up is usually a sign for good quality food at a good price.
Usually I ask the people waiting in line for their opinion and then reflect on my crazy day and what may await me tomorrow. I place my order, I'm starving, go to the hotel and enjoy this chicken sandwich that is as delicious as Tournedos Rossini! Back at the hotel, it is now 2 AM and I have chills :-) and fall from sheer exhaustion in my king size bed!
These are my crazy nights in NYC. I still hope that I will be able sit down in a restaurant with some friends and have a decent meal. Don’t think that I’m on vacation here, enjoy quiet days, stroll around in the streets and parks of New York and watch some tennis matches. Well, the life of the commentator and presenter has it’s special requirements and takes a lot of time.
While being an active player on the ATP tour I had way more time for me, time for dinner with my wife, my children and my friends. Strange.
That's it, my crazy nights in New York and after my chicken sandwich I’ll sleep like a baby!
Until tomorrow!
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