As the symbol of a career spent raising scores and turning brains, Gilles Simon beat Andy Murray on Monday evening at the end of a badly embarked match which could just as well have put him into retirement. Led 6-4, 5-3 by the Scotsman, the Frenchman managed to make him lose his means to finish as the winner, after a fight of 2h49 (4-6, 7-5, 6-3), during the first lap of the Rolex Paris Masters.
From the beginning, we felt that something special was going to happen on the Central. Just before kick-off, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils had arrived together to place themselves at the top of the guest gallery. Side by side, to support the fourth Beatles, who were about to give their last show.
Finally, last, it remained to be proven. If many representatives of French tennis, from Pierre Barthès to Jérémy Chardy, from Patrick Proisy to Nicolas Mahut, were seated at the edge of the court, if the coaches who marked his career, including Thierry Tulasne and the German Jan De Witt, were also in the front row, and if the members of his family attended the event from all over the place, Gilles Simon had not ruled out the possibility of raising a rabbit on his retirement.
Despite a serve that he could hardly advance at more than 150 km/h, despite a Murray who always knew how to maneuver it and who represented one of his worst nightmares on the court (16 defeats in 18 duels until there), despite the first three games lost from the start, the former world No. 6 has always played his card, with extended exchanges sometimes damn well shaped. We shot for a long time at an average of one point per minute.
Led 5-3 in the first set, Simon broke, partly thanks to Murray, author of two double faults. But at 5-4, he himself gave up his commitment again, on a badly negotiated smash after rebound. It is that between his lapels cut in abundance and his candles which tickled the vault, the Scotsman knew how to put the cursor where it squeaked for the Frenchman. In a POPB that tried to multiply the decibels to better carry the local, Simon, who seemed blunt, found himself trailing 5-3 in the second set. game-over ? No way. Andy Murray then lost his pedals and his tennis, missing almost everything for a quarter of an hour and scoring only 4 points until the end of a set snatched by the Frenchman, 7-5.
In the third set, Murray appeared to be ten years older than his opponent, for whom there was less question than ever of letting go. Simon broke white at 1-1 and even ended up taking the Scot’s serve one last time to win at 10:40 p.m. At almost 38 years old, opposed in the next round to the American Taylor Fritz, who is aiming for a qualification for the Masters, Gilles Simon is still moving.