Junior Academy: Guidance from Gasquet
Originally published on: 10/04/13 00:00
There aren’t many better equipped to discuss pressure and expectation than world No.9 Richard Gasquet. Pictures of him as a fresh-faced youngster decorated the front covers of tennis magazines and the walls of tennis clubs throughout France from the time he was nine years old. The country, celebrated for tennis greats such as Suzanne Lenglen, Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah, had not produced a male Grand Slam champion since Noah won Roland Garros in 1983 and as Gasquet rose through the junior system he was tagged as the next big hope…
How did you cope with all that pressure from such a young age? When you are growing up it’s not easy to have all this pressure on your shoulders. Especially, I remember, in Monte Carlo when I was 16. I played well there and won a round and for sure I felt a little bit of pressure. Everybody was looking at me and there were expectations and that’s not easy. I just tried to be focused on my game, to improve. But it [pressure] is normal. I think it’s not an excuse. Maybe for [Roger] Federer it is the same but for me it was tough but I managed to play well and I tried my best.
Was it difficult to stay grounded when so many people around you were thinking so far ahead? Yes, of course. It started when I was nine years old and I was on the cover of a French tennis magazine and I think at that age it wasn’t a good idea to do that. But it happened and for my whole junior career I was the one that was being talked about and then I played well under 12, 14 and 16. I played very good and that’s why I had people in France saying I could win Roland Garros.
Was it difficult missing out on things because of tennis when you were younger? No. That’s a part of your life. You need to be focused, you need to be 100 per cent ready with tennis. It’s not easy to party or go out with friends because you have to travel a lot. To be in the top you need to do it and I love this life. I love to travel. I love to practise. It wasn’t a big problem for me to do that. It’s a good life, I love to play so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything, even when I couldn’t be with friends.
How important is it for juniors to keep evolving their game each year? Yes, it’s very important. Even now I think I can improve my game. Physically I am getting better, I can serve better, I can return better. I can still go to the net more. So I think I can improve each year.
What motivates you? Is it winning, enjoyment, your ranking? To play well at big tournaments. The ranking is a consequence. If you play well you have the ranking. It’s important to enjoy it.
If you could go back would you change anything about your career so far? I don’t know what I would have done differently but for sure I would want to be better. Every player wants to be better. I’m not Federer. I’m not [Rafael] Nadal. For sure in my life I would love to win a Grand Slam but it is starting to be tough. But as I said, I’m enjoying it. I like to play tennis. We will see.
Our exclusive interview with Richard Gasquet appeared in full in the April issue of tennishead