And 500! Gilles Simon, 158th in the world, qualified Thursday May 26 for the 3rd round of his 17th and last Roland-Garros before retiring at the end of the year, dominating the American Steve Johnson (92nd) 7- 5, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6), thus signing his 500th victory on the circuit. At 37, Simon therefore prolongs the pleasure at Roland-Garros where the public at the Philippe-Chatrier court wore him again on Thursday. He will have to beat the Croatian Marin Cilic (23rd) on Saturday to reach the round of 16 and thus equal his best performance on Parisian clay.
“I was tired at the end and usually I’m the only one who wants that ‘chip’ to come out. But then, everyone wanted him… and he came out! “, Simon launched to the public in reference to the umpteenth and last reverse cut of Johnson which landed on the wrong side of the line. “The four hooligans over there (showing young boys in the gallery, editor’s note), they are mine! It must be five years since they last saw their dad play, I’m glad I got the chance to give them that moment.”
Unlike the first round where he had been embarked on a long fight in five sets when he had led two sets to zero, Simon this time was able to conclude in three dry sets. “I had an unreal match two days ago. There, it was different, I had a lot of stress at the start,” he revealed, explaining that he was afraid of having a bad game after the heroic victory in the first round. “At 3-0, it was off to a bad start… I sucked. You say to yourself “it has to come”, “he further commented.
Sure enough, it came: he then won 12 of the 14 games that followed to win the first set and come away 5-0 in the second. By exchanging service games twice, the two players came to a tie break in the third set. Simon offered himself a first match point at 6/5, but concluded on the 2nd, on this famous “chip” too long from Johnson which caused the explosion of the Philippe-Chatrier court.
“I interacted less with you because I needed to manage my energy, but I knew you were there. All it takes is one look and you feel like you have everyone with you,” he said to the audience before leaving the court. The former world No.6, down to 158th place, announced on May 7 that his body was no longer able to keep up and that he would end his 20-year career at the end of the season. year.
Three times he reached the round of 16 at Roland-Garros, without managing to go beyond (2011, 2013, 2015). He had his best Grand Slam result at the 2009 Australian Open and 2015 Wimbledon when he reached the quarter-finals. Winner of the 2017 Davis Cup, he has 14 titles to date.