A story which can inspire generations to never let anything take away their fighting spirit. A story of achievements, fighting spirit and zeal to continue; Stéphane Houdet has been writing some history at the Wheelchair Tennis. An ongoing journey of his has seen titles of 2007 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2009 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2009 Wimbledon Championships – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2009 US Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2010 Australian Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2010 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2011 US Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2012 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Singles, 2013 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Singles, 2013 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2013 Wimbledon Championships – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2013 US Open – Wheelchair Men’s Singles, 2014 Australian Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2014 French Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2014 Wimbledon Championships – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2014 US Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2015 Australian Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, 2016 Australian Open – Wheelchair Men’s Doubles, Olympic Medals, seen titles and successful defense of the titles. The Iconic Player, spoke with us about his career, hurdles he faced during his career and more.
A career as a vet, motorcyclist, wheelchair tennis World Champion, Champion Golfer- your personal favorite out of these.
I would say the next challenge (smiles) but having two sets of twins is probably my favorite one.
How difficult is to reach to the World No. 1 in the sport and how difficult is to extend the stay at the top of world?
I am a former tennis player so it helped me a lot to reach the top in wheelchair tennis. To be honest as we have less wheelchair tennis players than tennis players it was easier in my discipline. With the new gene ration it will be very difficult to keep the spot but we all improved. We have better preparation and I can imagine a future with a very high level on tour.
Training and Game readiness…
I am a big fan of games and I train as close as possible as match conditions. Serves, returns and count the points.
Coaches- their contributions…
I have few coaches. They all give me their point of view on different part of the game. One is focused on the mental approach and I think that at my age this is the main thing even if sometimes I need to work on a technical point. Now for example I work a lot on my serve and I talk a lot about strategy.
Podium finish at Beijing and London: targets for Rio? How are you preparing for it?
I want to be in the position of getting more medals. But the behavior does the score and not the opposite. So I want to focused on what I have to do to play well. And if I play well the score and the medals will come.
Different phases of your career, including your Golf, Motorcycling and tennis moments. Your favorite memories from one or all of these.
Motorcycling was just a nice way of traveling. I didn’t compete. My best memory in golf was the European championship in France. The golf course was one of the most beautiful I had the chance to play and the fight for the win was the best one I had. In tennis it’s the same. My best memories are my two big fights vs Shingo Kunieda in my two French Open titles. I have won 7/6 in the third twice and the two matches were so intense. What I do prefer is to listen my famous and friends telling me the way the lived these intense matches.
Hurdles you faced at various instances in your career. What kept you moving forward during those moments?
The first hurdle was the wheelchair. I couldn’t move and it was so difficult to find the rhythm I used to play but also where to go on court. Mobility with the wheels is different than with legs. We do a lot of pivots we can’t follow the ball all the time and that’s a big difference. The second hurdle was to do a different and specific wheelchair. It was a long process but I did it and I am very happy with the result. The third hurdle is to have the budget to travel worldwide.
One moment, which defined your wheelchair tennis career…
In the tiebreak of the third set in 2012 at the French open I was 4/6 down and I came back to win my first slam 8/6. I did aces and winners to win this tiebreak. I never gave up despite the score and the difficulties. I became number one after this win and that really defines well the way I play and my career.
Few words about your famous wins (at Roland Garros, US Open, Calendar Year in Grand Slam, at Beijing & London)…
Roland Garros twice with the same scenario 7/6 in the third in three hours 2012 and 2013. Big and nice wins as I mentioned earlier. US Open 2013 in heavy wind and tough conditions. I was really surprised to win so easily (6/2 6/4) but I have used the wind perfectly and it was a plan I made with my coach during the practice before the match. But I also talked with Rafa in the locker room and the way I had to play became obvious.
Beijing was a disaster in singles and by chance the double was there to help me to forget the singles (smiles), London was a disaster in doubles in the semis and the bronze medal match was too easy with a 6/0 6/0 win. I have played all the singles and all the doubles matches and I was the only one player to do so. For the gold medal match Shingo played very well and moved so much better than me. He was stronger this day and deserved the gold.
Your favorite tournament format (out of US Open, Roland Garros, Australian Open, Japan Open, Paralympic Games, etc.).
I love to play on clay even if it’s really difficult to push so I love the French open but the formats of the US Open, the Australian open and Wimbledon are better as we play on 4 days instead of 3 at the French. Paralympic Games format is probably the best for rest as we play on 8 days 11 matches so that’s the best to recover.
Future aspirations & legacy you want to create…
I am working with the French defense ministry on a rehab program through sport. My motto are around “Never give up”, “create yourself”, “follow your instinct”
Your message to young players on their preparation for international career. What are the things one should keep in training regime to have a prolonged career?
Pleasure is the best fuel for your engine !