It is the thinning in the gray that has bathed French tennis for years. Revealed at the Roland-Garros fall in 2020, Hugo Gaston proved in 2021, after a few months of “digestion” that he was not a simple meteor. Quarter-finalist at Bercy before playing in the Next Gen Masters in Milan, the 21-year-old Haut-Garonnais finished the year in 67th place in the world, which allows him to envision a near future in the most prestigious tournaments. .
“2022 is going to be a good year,” he says. I am lucky to be able to integrate all the major tables, without going through the qualifiers. »Thus, after a preparatory tournament the previous week, Gaston will play the Australian Open, from January 17 to 30 in Melbourne. Before traveling to the Antipodes, via a stopover in Dubai, the Fonsorbais magician had answered a few questions from 20 Minutes.
Do you feel that you have confirmed the promises of 2020 in 2021?
I am aware of what I have done. After, to say that I confirmed… I do not look too much. I just try to do my little routine, to go at my own pace. So far, it’s going pretty well and it’s cool. I know what I’m capable of.
The post-Roland Garros 2020 has sometimes been complicated. In the program “Interior sport” broadcast last May by Canal +, we see this internship in Spain which is not going very well … Were there any doubts at times?
We have the right to make mistakes. This period made it possible to make things clear. I was very tired, very nervous. It had to come out, it came out then. In the end, it’s bad for good.
What highlight do you retain from 2021?
Obviously the end of the year. Going out for a while is complicated, but I would still say Bercy with the emotion that I was able to experience there. Then there was the chain with the Davis Cup, a first for me. Sing the Marseillaise with the first team, it was a childhood dream. I was very happy. Even if in the end I didn’t play, I was still part of the team, it’s unforgettable.
Your matches at Bercy were played out in an atmosphere of madness. Were you surprised?
It was something crazy, a crazy atmosphere. I managed it well and it was great. In addition, my level of play was very good, the public was completely behind me. It was amazing and that’s how I was able to play so well and make a quarterfinal.
Then there is the Davis Cup then, instead of going on vacation, you prefer to play the Interclubs and you become champion of France with the Stade Toulousain …
I love the concept of a team. There are very few team competitions in a year. And then, I found the friends and it went very well so it’s even better. The president of the Stadium was also counting on me and I had to be there, because I receive strong help from the club. I went there with pleasure. I then went on vacation for a bit, four or five days. I didn’t cut too much but that’s part of the thing. We had great moments with the team.
You beat Carreño Busta and Alcaraz at Bercy, but lost before against players much lower than you. The next step is more consistency?
Yes, I have to keep working on this. At the end of the year, it was already much better, my level of play rose. But we will now have to be consistent over this year.
What is the goal in 2022? The ranking or the game?
I will try to continue to progress in the game and necessarily in the standings. Afterwards, giving a number is complicated. We will do it little by little, try to climb gradually rather than setting ourselves a very high ranking from the start.
How do you compare to other young players of the new generation, like the Italian Jannick Sinner (20) or the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz (18)?
Alcaraz is very young and already 30th in the world (32nd exactly). Me, I went at my own pace and now I’m in the 60th. Everyone is going at their own speed and in the end, I move up the rankings quite quickly. I try not to look at them too much, although it’s always interesting to compare myself to them. Once again, I try to go at my own pace, without skipping the steps.
No more Challengers? Are you only going to play big tournaments?
This is my goal for this year. It will be necessary to see according to the programming but it is sure that I will try to dispute a lot of ATP 250 and more. If there are weeks I have to do a Challenger, I will go. But the priority is to stay on 250 or better.
Has your life changed? When you go directly to the big tournaments, it’s not the same world anymore …
No. Of course, the gains are greater but there are always trips that have a cost, the plane, the trainer, all that. But it is certain that it is more comfortable. We earn a better living even if I am still young. And the “prize money” will now be higher.
What still separates you from the best players in the world, like Medvedev who you hung in the quarterfinals at Bercy but who still beat you?
Consistency over a year. These guys, they always make at least semi-final, even final in tournaments. I am getting better and better in this area, I must continue.
If you received so much support at Bercy, for example, it is because you are French and your game pleases the public. But you are also a breakthrough in a troubled tricolor tennis. Doesn’t that put too much pressure?
Honestly, no. We are still quite a few players to have had a good year like (Arthur) Rinderknech or (Benjamin) Bonzi. A great generation is coming. We can do great things. Personally, I’m lucky to have played very well at Bercy where there were a lot of people and the public was really behind me. I am happy with what I did, happy also to make proud the people who come to see me. This is also why I play tennis.
Is there a move you would like to further correct or improve?
No. I really feel very balanced, whether it’s forehand, backhand, serve or on the move. I feel good everywhere. Of course, I can improve myself in all areas. But there is not a move where I say to myself: “Really, something is going to have to be done. “