And the Quarantine Emmy goes to...
Over the past 10 days, a handful of tennis players have provided positive reinforcements for followers to eat up on social media by delivering original—and at times—whimsical content during their mandatory Melbourne quarantine. One of those standouts, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, has completely nailed the concept of production value with a pair of imaginative "circuits" utilizing the entirety of his hotel room and its contents.
TENNIS.com caught up with the 21-time ATP doubles champion to get the scoop on his inspiring videos, but first, learned more about his new partnership with Henri Kontinen, upcoming ATP Cup return and countryman Benoit Paire.
Hi Edouard. Before we begin, would you like to start or end with the “fun” subject you know I want to dive into?
Let’s save the fun for the end.
Fair enough. First off, you’re playing with a new partner for the 2021 season. You’re fortunately not facing hard quarantine in Melbourne. What are you focusing on with Henri? How’s the process been do far?
Well, luckily we are able to be on court two hours per day. During the off-season, he was in Finland and I was staying home in France. So we are using these two weeks to have a good feeling on the court, to work on our stuff together and also individually.
Every day we know we're going to be tested. It’s part of the protocol. That's a worry every morning to wait for someone to knock at the door and be ready to get tested. But so far, it’s been 11 days, 11 tests, all negative. So that's very good. And I'm sure it's not going to be the last week of testing, but now we are all prepared for that.
Back in late 2019, your team debut ended with the trophy at Stockholm. What do you remember about that week, the instant chemistry you had and how much weight that experience had on your decision coming into 2021, knowing Jurgen Melzer was on his way out?
We decided, I think, three days before in Shanghai. He asked me if I want to play Stockholm. And I said, "Oh, I was not supposed to, but why not?" I mean, he's a cool guy. I like him a lot. We have never played together before that, but I was really looking forward to spend the tournament week with him. We played great and we had good fun together during that week. So it definitely had impact on my choice when I knew Jurgen going to stop. He was one of the first I text[ed] to know what are his plans for next year. He admitted recently that he was not sure [he wanted] to continue. And when he got the text from me, he was like, "Okay, that's a cool stuff. Let's go again. Let's practice and be ready for 2021."
You both have a strong history of winning with a lot of people. There's always a revolving door of teams, it seems, in doubles. It's the way it goes. It's always so competitive. How do you see yourselves factoring into the equation if the calendar holds up?
We can see on the result, every week it's a different team winning. So we are so close to each other and [with] one point, you can change the match. Hopefully, we can play a lot of tournaments this year. And it's going to be a great battle to go to the ATP Finals, to win Grand Slam, to win big tournaments. We are like maybe 20 teams are really strong and be competitive to win big tournaments.
Before you and Henri play the Australian Open, you’re back representing France in the ATP Cup. I think it’s fair to say it didn't go the way you and Nicolas Mahut would have hoped last year, but you've got an opportunity to really redeem yourselves. Do you have a little extra fire in your belly to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, knowing that the doubles can play a huge role in the outcome?
We talked about this because we were together in Paris practicing during the off season. And we knew that we didn't play well. Last year we lost all three matches, so it was really disappointing. Obviously this year we want to do much better. We want to win matches, help the team win the group. And so that gives us more pressure to be really, really good on the court. But unfortunately we cannot practice together. Maybe we'll have one or two days before the match start, but we are texting almost every day with Nico and like, "Okay, you're doing good. You're preparing. Let's go." And we'll be ready to fire up this ATP Cup.
What are your thoughts on France’s group? I actually think you guys have the most wide open of the four.
We have Benoit in the team and he's in hard quarantine, so hopefully he's going to be okay and be ready to play at his best level and get some matches. All matches are going to be strong. We have Austria with Dominic Thiem. Italia, they are strong also. Hopefully if the deciding point will be on our shoulders, we'll be ready for this.
Are you all checking in with Benoit just to make sure he's not pulling his hair out? He's probably, along with Guido Pella, the unluckiest player thus far when it comes to big tournaments and quarantine timelines.
I was texting with him this morning and maybe to rent a house together to have a good time during this Melbourne trip, because he cannot stand anymore, the room. He wants to be out of the room. And we were checking on the internet, like, "Okay, why not rent a house together and be having a pool and enjoy our time and not be stuck again in the room?"
That could be fun. Now, it’s hard to look too far ahead in the current climate, but… you're someone who, is so patriotic. France is so deep as a tennis nation. If the Olympics or the Davis Cup Finals are able to take place. are those events in the back of your head as a priority for 2021?
Yeah, definitely. France is so, so strong. When I was playing and was like 35 in the world in singles, I had no chance to play. The doubles now, we have Mahut and Herbert, which is one of the best team in history in France. So it's tough to get ahead of them. But, I'm still playing tennis because I enjoy it and because I have this dream to play Olympics, to play Davis Cup. So that's why I'm practicing every day. Luckily, I can play the ATP Cup, which is already a great event, representing my country. But I mean this year, my main goal is to try to qualify for the Olympics and at the end of the year, the Davis Cup as well.
Switching gears. I’ve been to Melbourne a few times and can say, the coffee scene is truly exceptional. As someone who also enjoys a good brew, how excited are you to hit the cafes once you’ve completed quarantine? Any special routines you have when you’re at the Happy Slam?
Well, this is probably the first thing I will do when I'll be out of the quarantine, just go in the city, grab a coffee on the terrace and enjoy my time. I miss that a lot. Every morning, I want to have my coffee and here (in the room) it's not great. I asked to be delivered, sometimes it's coming, it's cold. I tried this at the beginning. In Melbourne, I don't have specific spots, but I know I can find it, just go on the street and find little coffee shop, and just stay there. That's a good start of the day.
Who pounds more caffeine: you or Henri?
I figured out that Henri drinks much more coffee than me. So it will be interesting to see how many coffees he [gets] at the AO.
Keep us posted. Now, we're going to get to the main event: your quarantine videos that have absolutely wowed on social media. What inspired your first run? Have you done this before and been holding out on us?
I had the practice at 7:00 a.m. I finished in the room at 12:00 and then nothing to do till the next day. I was a bit bored and I was like, "Okay." And it just came up like this, like, "Oh, I'm going to do like a little circuit like this." And then it was still growing, like ideas, like, "Okay, I try to do this much more and get bigger, get higher." So I made maybe two hours to make that video. I did maybe 50 attempts, but at the end I finally made it and I was happy to do it. I didn't think it would be that big. Honestly, I was just happy about myself and just share with the little world I know. And then it gets quite big, so I was happy about this. And obviously there's some guys that have asked me to do one more, so I did another one yesterday. But maybe that's it for the quarantine.
And you had no help, correct?
Oh yeah, no, I was just by myself. I had crazy ideas, but I couldn't make it. I wanted to jump over the bed. I tried, but it didn't happen. So, at the end I just did some basic ones and it was quite fun.
The second video: I felt you stepped it up in that it was a bit more complex, a bit riskier. How difficult was it to come up with a second alteration knowing that you had the same room, the same amount of space, the same toolkit to work with?
I tried many things, but many things didn't work. So, then I just checked like, "Okay, this is working. This is working also like this." Then I had the ideas with cards, but it was not happening. And it took me a lot of time to build everything perfectly. I did, again, many attempts to work it. I did step by step, like, "Okay, the iron thing is working. Then the racquet. Okay, it's working. Then the bottle. Okay, I have to put them perfectly there." Step by step, it took me like two or three hours to do. It was a good way to kill time in the room.
Were you a math or physics nerd in school? One might say you have the mind of a civil engineer.
I was really good in math. I loved math at school, so I was happy to do my homework. This is something I still like.
Did your expertise on the geometry of a tennis court help with this at all? I'm getting a little bit deep here…
Maybe, maybe not. It can help in a way to understand the geometry of the court and figure out about the ball, how it's going in, it's going out. Maybe it helps it with my height also. You tell me. (laughter)
Angles, direction, velocity, trial and error. It makes sense to this amateur. To that, you have two little ones. You’ve certainly proven dad can do better than a standard train track set. Have you ever constructed a course for them before?
So yeah, now that you are asking, I had already prepared my circuit already. I practiced a lot [last] summer, when France was in lockdown. Thankfully I had the house in the west where I grew up, next to the beach. I spent time with my kids and I built very big circuits on the sand, with the ball coming up from the top. It took me also a while to get the right speed, the right curve, to go like this. So I've done this before.
Love it. So, if we can't talk you into doing one more video before your quarantine is up…
Would you produce something with Benoit if you guys did get a place? Don’t things come in threes? You gotta finish strong, no?
I mean, if we have a big apartment, a big house together, maybe we can build something incredible and do something else.
He's got a creative brain all his own, too, so I'd be curious to see his ideas working with yours.
Yeah, yeah. Why not? That's a good idea. Maybe we'll try to do that with Benoit.
Well, that's a wrap. Thank you very much for your generous time.