This is the first part of the translation of Richard's answers to fans' questions. Many thanks for this initiative, Richard!
Richard, if you had not chosen tennis (or tennis had not chosen you) would you have liked to continue your studies and what would you have chosen as profession?
I would have liked to continue my studies, but my results in tennis and the travelling put an end to that step by step. I had no special vocation, but studying would have pleased me.
What is your objective for the US Open?
As you have seen, I lost to Gael. I would have liked to go further.
Richard, do you follow the results of the younger Frenchies (Ruffin, Paire,..)?
It is very interesting to see what they do. I like to have contacts with all the players and talking to them occasionally.
What are the things you like most about tennis? The ball pounding against your racket? Smelling clay or freshly mown grass?
I like the contact of the ball with the racket. If it is bad I get crazy.
Is there a routine you do before a match? Are you superstitious? Is there something in your suit-case which you would not want to lose?
I appreciate having slept well before a match, but that does not happen often. – No particular objects.- Before the match I take care of my rackets and especially my grips.
It is probably a bit premature to ask, but have you thought about your life after tennis and if so, which profession would you chose?
I do not project myself into the future, but I’d love to open myself to the world (but not too much).
What do you expect from your fans? I am not talking about the masses in Roland Garros or about Davis Cup in France, I am talking about a first round abroad, early in the morning, on a side court with a weak and indifferent crowd. You lost the first set 6-7. Do you want that we put up the banners, are enthusiastic, make noise (being fair-play of course), chanting “Richard”? Or do you want us to stay calm in order not to disturb or nerve you?
I am receptive to encouragement before or after a game.
An “expert” commentator has said during one of your matches that your forehand develops since you arrived at the circuit, but in the wrong direction. What do you think about this view? Is there a statistic or analysis you would want us to make after the matches we can follow on TV or stream, or is there one among the ones which have already been made, which is of particular interest to you?The poster refers to the thread “Richard’s match analysis” on rgnet].
The forehand is with many players a barometer of their game, which can go off, but for me the quality of my serve is more important, I think that the my forehand is in the shadow of my backhand. – I am not too curious about my stats, I analyse my game more against my feelings.
Are you doing a special psychological /mental routine (zen, yoga….)? And do you do specific exercises before a match? In addition, as for your diet, are you following experts’ advice to adept to the challenges of sport on the highest level?
I am in regular contact with Alain Gonzalez, who knows me since my childhood; I know that I have to make a huge effort to control my respiration during matches. – I avoid excess, no sweet stuff, less coca-cola and I eat normally most of the time during tournaments. It is necessary to adept to the changes of food.
I’d like to know about a typical tennis training day – during and outside of tournaments.
During a tournament: About an hour of tennis and half an hour of gym
(muscle relaxation and abdominals), outside the tournament: 2 sessions of 2 hours tennis, 2 hours physical, 1 hour physio).
At which place in the ATP ranking would you want to finish this year?
As close as possible to nr. 10.
What prevents you from always playing “forward”? Is it a lack of confidence in your volley (which is great though)? Is this an approach you take only when things get hot? Does it depend on the opponent? Is it an advice of the coach? In brief: what prevents you from attacking all the time?
I depend a lot on the quality of my serve, and I look most of all at being regular throughout the year, to make my game more solid, in particular from the back of the court. What prevents me [from attacking] is the quality of the defence of the players on the circuit, attacking all the time is my objective, but hard to put in place.
Often when watching you play, you are very far from the baseline and the commentators don’t stop repeating that this is your “comfort” zone. We think indeed that this makes you lose points. What is your analysis on the subject and do you talk with your coach about it?
I am aware of some positioning a bit extreme, but it allows my to find my strokes and I advance when I can. It is necessary to advance, this is evident, and I work on it in all my practices with all my partners (team matches, DC, special coaches).
I would like to pose the same question…[………] With the talent you have Richard, why not moving forward, and sticking whatever it costs at the baseline?
Your analysis - as all the other on this issue - is relevant, but my objective is to develop my game forward systematically. I think I get there, but it is necessary to develop a plan B to win.
I have a simple question. I would like to know who your best friends on the tour are and if they play the same tournament as you, is it a plus?
I prefer getting along with everyone. The tension at tournaments is already very high. Too much friendship (as too much hatred) would only add to it.
How do you live […] through the numerous times of injury? What kind of discussions do you have on this issue with your “colleagues in the hospital” (Jo, Gael, Gilles)? What can your practise partners offer you? Is it a plus to practise with great players, to change often, to work a particular point with a particular player? Do you pick your practise partners or do you leave that choice to your coach?
When you are injured, it is mainly loneliness. And the plight of others does not change your own. In daily life, it is visits to IRM laboratories, radiography, which is not pleasant and these periods should in no way be considered as time off. Time off is fine and useful after great results.
It is necessary to practise with good and motivated players, and all the French partners I had during my professional career answer to this criterion of quality for themselves and respect for the practise partner. For working a particular point one can work with a player of lower level who hits the ball well. Circumstances and availability decide the choice of the partner.
Which is the area of the game which you work on most in practise? More the strong points to make them even stronger or to correct the weak points? In this respect, what is the area which you will have to improve to enter the Top 15? What is your final objective in tennis?
I have already been among the Top 15 for some years. In practise, I work on the intensity of all strokes as long as possible.