By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Gilles Simon, the top seed for the 2013 AEGON International, will be ready to make an impact at Devonshire Park with the delightful seaside town likely to suit his laidback persona both on and off the court.
The in-form French ace is aiming to add another title as he prepares for a shot at finally making an impact at Wimbledon. His playing style and tactics suit fast surfaces, so taking the grass court crown at Eastbourne is certainly a strong possibility.
Often referred to by the French media simply as “fantastique!”, despite briefly cracking the world’s top 10 in 2008, Simon has had to settle for being a top 20 hit rather than one of the Grand Slam potential champions.
Because Simon can’t hit the ball with the same sort of pace as today’s leading players, he takes the power off his opponent’s shots and zaps their energy.
He is a grinder who gets almost every shot back, and the longer the match goes on then the more winners Simon comes up. He has the incredible ability to take the pace off the ball but then powerfully return the shot to try to outfox opponents.
Simon’s ability to anticipate where the ball will be placed increases the pressure on opponents, which forces them out of their comfort zone and begins to give him the upper hand.
So grass should suit him as he has a tendency to play low shots without pace, often opting to drive the ball down the middle of the court. These tactics have long worked wonders since he joined the Tour in 2002.
He can make opponents suddenly become vulnerable as they cannot comfortably attack low balls and have no angles to work with from the centre of the court.
Simon explained: “When I play a shot, most of the time I already know where the ball is going to come back to me.
“I try to stay as relaxed as possible, but it’s never easy to find a good balance of being focused and being relaxed at the same time – on the inside, at times, I do feel nervous.
“But my aim, of course, is to win the biggest titles possible. It’s been a long while since I beat one of the top four players – Nadal, Djokovic, Murray or Federer.”
He has defeated two top 10 players already this season, Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro and former Eastbourne runner-up Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
But unless Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych opts for a wildcard then Simon won’t have to face another ATP Tour top 10 player during his week in Eastbourne.
Whether Simon, who has never been past the 4th Round at Wimbledon, will be able to add the 2013 Eastbourne crown as his 12th Singles title remains to be seen.