Gilles Simon replayed the Roland-Garros tournament… virtually

Gilles Simon replayed the Roland-Garros tournament… virtually
Gilles Simon replayed the Roland-Garros tournament… virtually

The former world number six, legend of French tennis, benefited from a wild card to participate in the eSeries Roland-Garros 2024, the virtual French international tournament. A first for this absolute video game fan.

It’s a smiling and impatient Gilles Simon who arrives in the auditorium of Roland-Garros (RG) – not far from the Philippe Chatrier court, the main venue for the French internationals which are currently taking place.

However, he had to make a quick phone call to Aymeric Labaste, head of international development at RG, to find the location where the seventh edition of the eSeries Roland-Garros 2024 tournament, the esports version of the famous tennis tournament, is taking place. , which is played on mobile.

A competition that the former world number six will compete in thanks to a wild card (WC, a sort of privileged invitation) offered by the tournament. In advance, he came to test the waters and did not hide “a certain stress”.

“The guys in front are some of the best in the world,” he breathes. “They don’t have the same volume of play as me.”

That’s saying something. The qualifying phases of the tournament – there were three – brought together no less than 547,737 participants on Tennis Clash, the most popular mobile tennis game in recent years. The eight finalists met this Saturday, May 25 for the final phases. Among them: William “Fozzy” Foster, double title holder and his last finalist He “Kafe” ShengHao, medalist at the 2023 Olympic Esport Series.

“Don’t make an appearance”

The French right-hander with the two-handed backhand describes the genesis of his arrival on Tennis Clash. “It’s a license that mixes two worlds that I love. Last year, I commented on the final stages of the tournament.” Curious, he downloaded the game and had “a lot of fun” playing it.

“That’s when I said to myself that it could be cool to participate the following year (this year, editor’s note). I trained and here I am.”

Everyone dreams of lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires (the trophy awarded to the winner of the men’s singles), digital version. “We have seven matches to play in the group stage. We have to win a set of ten points. And the four best validate their accession to the last four. I will try not to make an appearance and not to be fanny”, jokes “Giloo.”

“Who wants to train with me?” asks the champion, taking out his smartphone.

It’s time for the first round. Gilles Simon is pitted against the only female player present in these final stages: the American Adjua “RenaPower” Boucher.

William “Fozzy” Foster, two-time eSeries Roland-Garros title holder. – Chloé Ramdami

Faithful to his usual style of play – solid from the back of the court and pushing his opponent to make mistakes – which earned him the nickname “Professor”, the 39-year-old from Nice (he will be 40 in December) did not no harm in getting rid of your opponent. 10-3. The American woman, overwhelmed by the challenge, never existed. “I was shaking,” she confided after the meeting. “Gilles (Simon, editor’s note) plays very well, he was too strong for me.”

“The fact that she is stressed gave me an advantage. But the second round will be another matter. The goal will be to score one or two points,” slips the person concerned.

Standing in front of him is the immense Briton and defending champion “Fozzy” (1m92), who got off to a bad start to his campaign by losing to his long-time rival, “Kafe” (8-10). Pushed by four members of the “La tribune bleue” collective (the very first group of French supporters dedicated to tennis), Gilles Simon hangs on. Makes a winning forehand shift to get back to seven all. Before breaking into “money-time” (7-10).

“You feel that he has worked on his sensitivity”

“I was nervous. Gilles’ supporters were vocal, it was destabilizing. But I managed to raise my level of play at the right time,” said “Fozzy” who was full of praise for his opponent. day. “It was better than expected,” debriefs the Frenchman with 14 singles titles on the main circuit.

Two “frustrating” meetings will follow against Marc “MarcAntony” Antoine (9-11) and “Kafe” (8-10).

“In both matches, I had opportunities to win or make the final gap. My virtual player was not moving forward, he lacked energy” slips Gilles Simon. Blame it on the sequence of meetings. To hope for an appearance in the last four, the winner of the Davis Cup – with the French team in 2017 – must pull himself together and win against Alessandro “Alex” Bianco, then undefeated in the group stage.

The Italian Alessandro “Alex” Bianco, titled this year – for his first participation. – Chloé Ramdami

Never in the rhythm, Gilles Simon commits too many unforced errors (once is not customary) against the Italian and loses heavily ten points to two. “Alex” then sealed his place in the semi-finals, an “unexpected” accomplishment. “I’m very proud of myself,” enthuses the Italian in shy English.

“He’s too strong (speaking of “Alex”, editor’s note). You feel that he has worked on his sensitivity. His punches go off at crazy speed. It’s unplayable”, explains Gilles Simon to the members of “La blue stand”.

His chances of qualifying are dwindling so he “changes strategy” to challenge his compatriot Tony “Ivar” Pilarski – player from the Handigamers association (for whom the tournament made a profit of 8,115 euros) who obtained the second wild card. A winning bet since he won ten to two and signed his ultimate success before losing – one last time – against the Turkish “Hizir” Balkanci (4-10).

Towards a new participation next year?

After more than two hours of competition and seven contested matches, Gilles Simon is in sixth place in the rankings with two victories for five defeats. “It was nice, I had a lot of fun. In the end I managed to win two matches. What helped me was that they were tense”, analyzes the man who retired from sports at the Masters 1000 of Paris-Bercy in November 2022, following a defeat against the Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime (1/6-3/6).

At the same time, “Alex”, “MarcAntony”, “Kafe” and “Fozzy” qualified for the final four. It is from Samuel Etienne’s set – arranged for the occasion – that Gilles Simon will follow the last three meetings. Broadcast on the Twitch channel of the former presenter of “Questions for a Champion”, the final saw “Alex” win against “Kafe” in a one-sided match (10/7; 10/5; 10/6 ).

“I really liked the general atmosphere of the tournament. This kind of meeting is just fun. I want my sport, tennis, to be as well known and as accessible as possible. This kind of tournament e-sport helps the influence of tennis, it’s a good thing,” he concludes.

The champion – who has beaten Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in his career – is not closing the door on possible participation next year. While waiting for the eighth edition of the eSeries Roland-Garros, he joined the team of Russian Daniil Medvedev, the current fifth in the world, for a full season. “We will take stock at the end of the season.”

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