Frenchman Cedric Pioline ranks among those players who never quite lived up to their potential on the ATP Tour."I don't think that is a right observation," said Pioline while settling into a chair at the Jumeirah Beach Club.
Pioline was in Dubai last week to play an exhibition match against the UAE's Omar Behroozian.
"I've had some good wins during my career. The two victories for France during the Davis Cup were definitely among the memorable moments," Pioline recounts.
"I'm pretty proud of what I have achieved in my tennis career," he smiles.
"Of course, there were games I could have won, but did not. And there were others where I came back from behind to upset more fancied opponents," he recalls.
"Victories and defeats are part of a career. But they do not define your success or failure. There's more to it than that," Pioline says.
Two finals at Wimbledon and as many titles with France in the Davis Cup are only part of what this Frenchman achieved.
"I realise that I could have done better. But, I doubt I have any regrets about what I have achieved," he shrugs.
The year 2001 was a low point in his otherwise flashy tennis career as Pioline finished out at No. 83 after struggling.
And while that personal frustration remained, he flowered with the national team in their Davis Cup pursuit.
In fact, his biggest moment in 2001 came during the Davis Cup final in Australia when he teamed with Fabrice Santoro to upset Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter in the doubles to give France a 2-1 lead.
The French eventually went on to win their ninth Cup with a 3-2 victory.
"Playing Davis Cup and playing on the Tour are two different things," Pioline notes. "One is a team event, and even if you are not at your best on the first day, you or your teammates have the opportunity to make up during the competition," he states.
Lots to smile
"The feeling too after winning is quite different," he adds. "You win on the Tour, you get all the credit. You lose and there's no one else to blame."
Pioline has a lot to smile about as he takes a look back on his career. After turning professional in 1989, he had to wait till 1993 to prosper. In 1993, he reached five finals, including the US Open, to break into the top 10 for the first time ever.
But the real taste of success came only in 1996 when he won his first ATP Tour title in Copenhagen defeating Carlsen in the final.
The same year, Pioline helped France to a Davis Cup title over Sweden.
In 1997, he continued from where he left as he clinched his second career title in Prague with a victory over Bohdan Ulihrach and also reached his second Grand Slam final at Wimbledon only to go down to Sampras.
"If it was any other player, I could have won at Wimbledon that year. I was just unlucky that the finalist was Sampras and he was playing his best tennis during that time," Pioline recalls.
Pioline became the first Frenchman to reach Wimbledon final since Yvon Petra won in 1946.
Pioline's career then took a dip, the only high being his semifinal entry to the French Open in 1998.
"Let me assure you that I have some of my most fulfilling years on the Tour. I have no regrets," said Pioline smiling.
And though he has stopped playing on the ATP Tour, he's very much kept fit doing various other things like playing in exhibition matches or some commentary for the television during the French Open or playing on the Seniors Tour.
"It's great to be on the other side of the fence," he says about his involvement as a TV commentator.
"I know what it feels to be on court, and now I have this chance to see from the press box," he smiles.Factfile
Name: Cedric Pioline
Date of birth: June 15, 1969
Place of birth: Neuilly, Seine, France
Residence: Geneva, Switzerland
Turned pro: 1989
Career High ATP Ranking (Singles): 5 (in May 2000); (Doubles): 93 (January 2003)
Singles titles: 5
Doubles titles: 1
Prize money won: $ 6.921 million
Soccer, his second love
- Tennis may be his career choice, but football ranks a close second for Cedric Pioline.
- In fact, he considers France's triumph in the 1998 World Cup at the Stade de France as among his most memorable sports memory.
- "Those were the golden years for French football," Pioline smiles.
- "We won the World Cup and then two years later, the Euro Cup," he recalls.
- "I admire Zidane a lot. But he is getting older and he's not as fast as he used to be. I also have a lot of regard for Thierry Henry," he admits.
- And despite these fading stars, Pioline still sees a lot of future for the team. "There are some new players who look like exciting prospects. We will be back," he promised.