17 April: Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
Wednesday, 17 April 2019
P. HERBERT/K. Nishikori
THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.
Q. Since I’m the first one asking the question, I’d like to congratulate you for this very nice victory.
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Thank you very much.
Q. Well, you have to say something else.
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Oh, yes, of course. Indeed, this was a very nice victory. Probably one of the nicest on clay and probably one of the nicest of my career, so I am really excited about it.
I’m very happy for this victory, but we shouldn’t exaggerate. I had, like, 10 break points that I had to save, and I’m happy that I managed to play good in the difficult points. It was tricky, because it wouldn’t have taken much for him to take the advantage.
Q. So this is your nicest victory as regards to ranking, but was this victory the nicest as regards your feelings on the court? Or have you ever felt stronger on other occasions?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: I didn’t have the feeling that I was really much above his level of tennis on the court, but sometimes I felt I was causing trouble. But I don’t have the impression that I made miracles or anything. I didn’t do anything extraordinary. But I felt the same with Verdasco the day before, and in difficult moments I didn’t panic, and this is why I won this match.
Q. With this victory, do you think you can be equal to the best players?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: I don’t need this victory precisely. There have been other victories in the past, and there were some very tough matches and wins that made me already think that I could at least give them trouble when I’m in a good day, so I knew this before entering into the court.
I also know that if they are in a good day, they can really give me trouble and they can even dictate the game. That has happened to me before. Therefore, I know that I have made progress. I know that I’m able to win tough matches. The good thing is to win.
Q. Actually, you have won against more top 20 players now than before, right? At what point did you feel that you started doing that and that it has become more of a habit for you?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: I think I felt how I was making progress little by little towards the end of 2017, beginning of 2018. And I consolidated that progress all along, 2018. I felt that I played very well towards the end of the year 2018. I remember I was in Shenzhen.
The Shenzhen tournament, even at the end of the year, I played very good matches. Even though I didn’t win them all, I was feeling that I had the right level, so I continued working on my tennis. I feel that all that hard work with my team, with Fabrice, with Benjamin, with all the team has borne fruit in the long term, and that is very positive.
Q. What do you think of this victory? Because you won against the No. 6, but I don’t have the impression that it was a miracle. Do you think you can play better than today?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: This is what I was saying. Probably I didn’t play very well at the beginning of the match, because it was difficult to play on the main court and it’s not the same conditions as in The Prince Court.
Then I started feeling the balls very well as I was feeling well the day before against Fernando, but what I was saying before is that this match, although I won it, I think he could have also won. I was Love-40, and I managed to save two points, and I managed to save 10 break points, so he couldn’t break my serve.
So on the one hand, I didn’t play perfectly well, but at the same time, I managed to win. That’s what counts. This is very positive. And as you say, I didn’t panic. I didn’t also have any feeling of making miracles apart from three very last shots that I managed to save, and I managed to be focused in the important moments.
Q. This victory will definitely help you with your confidence, don’t you think? Is this match a point of reference? Because having won against such a player is really something.
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Yes, of course. Because I actually gave trouble to playing No. 6. It is true that it is his first clay court match of the season, but it is very positive that I gave him trouble even if he had a very good season last year. It’s important for me.
As I said yesterday, there is a very fine line that I have to respect. There is a fine line between balanced play and unbalanced play on my side. So I need to be very careful and keep doing this right, trying to be efficient. I have to continue keeping calm, and I have to be very careful, because so far, so good, two, three matches are very, very good, but there is a really thin line that I should pay attention to, because otherwise, these things can get really wrong.
Q. You’re going to play against Coric. You played against him six years ago. I think he was a teenager. He was, like, 16 years old. What kind of player were you at that time, and what kind of player was he at that time? How would you compare you both with the players you are now?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: First time it was in Japan, I think. I think he won that match. He had plenty of opportunities. It was a tough match. We fought very well, both. He was a rising star, and I remember that that year, I went for the qualifications for Wimbledon.
I remember that I played very well against him. I dictated the game at that time. And then I played against him again in Madrid after I won against Lucas. And that was also a very tough match, and I think he deserved that victory. I had made lots of progress at the time, but he also has made lots of progress this year, and he had consolidated all those victories last year. He made great things. He’s very confident. He won two tough matches during this tournament, too.
He has spent lots of time on clay, so it’s going to be a big challenge tomorrow for me. And then again, I’m not going to be the favorite, of course, but on my side, I also won two difficult matches, so why not? We will see that tomorrow.
Q. Could you tell us more details about the fine line and the balance and this balance you need to achieve? It is a great subject. What can you tell us about that?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: I think my tennis is a little bit different from most other players, and especially on clay. When you are aggressive on clay court, you can easily lose your balance, which means that you have to have a good stance and a good stance is very important.
You need to hit hard at the right time, and you have to make also the decisions. You need to, for instance, if I’m a little bit on the baseline or if I’m not playing — if I’m not hitting my balls hard, like I did when I was playing against Verdasco because I was under stress, I’m not the same player.
This, you can feel it immediately on the court. So you need to make the right decisions at the right time. That’s what I’m trying to say.
So the fact of playing from the baseline without trying to attack, then you become like anybody else, so you need to be that special player that makes things differently than the others, and that’s what I feel.
Q. Does it mean that you have learned all along these years to be patient?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Yes, you have to be patient on clay. You have to be patient, to wait for the right time, and you have also to know when the time is right to attack.
You have to know when you should take risks, even if at the end it doesn’t work. So that’s what I call the fine line between good decisions, bad decisions, the good stance on the court, your positioning. And all this is, of course, very important in general, but all the more so on clay court.
Q. Is it a question of mathematics? Because Benjamin said it’s a matter of statistics. He said that on average, during 10 rallies, you have to be very patient during a clay court match. What do you think of that?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Yeah, there’s probably 10 rallies in which you have to be patient, but then you don’t know when that have-to-be-patient rally is arriving, so you don’t know when to be patient and when you don’t have to be patient.
So that’s probably four rallies in a row that you have to be patient or not. I mean, probably you think that you could take that risk and then at the end it didn’t work, or probably there is four times in which the shot is very short, so you have to go for it and you have to go forward, you have to attack.
So those are moments in which you have to make decisions, and that’s what I call the fine line of balance. You have to be very patient on clay court, and this is something that takes a longer time to learn as opposed to other surfaces.
This is why I’m so happy to have spent so much time before this tournament on clay, and the fact of having played in two tournaments. This is my sixth match, and I start to get those balances or those decisions right. So I hope this is going to continue like this.
Q. We are actually talking about your tennis identity. Were there sometimes during your career where you asked yourself the question, What kind of player am I? Or probably I should just go and serve and run up to the net, whatever happens? Or return the ball and go up to the net, whatever happens? Were there some times during which you asked yourself those questions, what kind of tennis you should play?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Of course, all my life, all my career, because I have plenty of shots. My tennis is very complete, so it was difficult to find my identity as a tennis player. You have to impose yourself in the court.
You need to find your balance, and if you want to be a good player in tennis, you have to be a different player. All the best players in the world are different. They dictate their own style. And it took me a while to understand that, because at a certain point in time, I wanted to play from the baseline like everybody else. I wanted to win the point from the baseline, hitting very hard, which was not necessarily my tennis.
And then little by little, I started to understand that if I wanted to be efficient, I needed to be a different player and I needed to accept that, because I have this tendency to want to be like anybody else.
So this was long-term work, and this is probably the reason why it took me longer than other players, and this is probably why, now that I’m 28, I start feeling really well.
Q. Do you remember the exact time when you understood that? Was it a specific match or a specific day or a specific conversation you had?
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: Yes, I actually remember precisely a tournament in United States, somewhere in Texas, a Futures tournament, and I remember that I had lost again my match, playing from the baseline, being stressed, not moving forward, not going up to the net.
I remember I had a conversation at that time with someone, an ex-player called Ronald Agenor, who was a trainer, a coach over there. He told me something that my father has been trying to tell me for, like, years and years, and that I haven’t listened to. You know, sometimes it’s easier if a third person tells you something instead of your own father, for instance.
But I remember that this conversation made me realize certain things. And Ronald, who was a great player, told me that. He told me that I have to be different. After this match, he told me that. And I remember that it was something that really made me change.
Q. (Question off microphone.)
PIERRE-HUGUES HERBERT: It was against a South African who used to play two-handed shots on both sides. It was in a Futures tournament in Texas. That’s all I remember.