09 Nov 2017

Hervet talks the talk on mental game, and walks it too


News Article

By Harvey Fialkov

Photo: Camerawork USAJacques Hervet (FRA)

Many aspiring tennis professionals as well as established Grand Slam champions such as Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray, have consulted sports psychologists to help take them to the next level.

When Jacques Hervet was 22 in 1983 and a struggling professional on the ATP Tour the Frenchman didn’t have the financial resources to afford personal trainers, nutritionists or a sports psychologist.

So after a two-year shot at the pros in which he reached a career-high of 257 in singles and 159 doubles, mostly on the Challenger circuit, Hervet, 56, first coached for the ITF before becoming Europe’s version of Jim Loehr, America’s renowned sports psychologist.

After losing a grueling Seniors World Individual Championships (55s division) quarterfinal match on Wednesday, falling 64 75 to American Peter Markes at the Crandon Park Tennis Center, second-seeded Hervet said he was more fascinated by the mental aspects of sports.

“I wanted to have that when I was young and didn’t,’’ said Hervet, who won his first Seniors World singles title last year in Finland where he didn’t drop a set in six matches.

“I know people can get help in a professional way that will help them reach their goals. I enjoy that and that’s why I’m still playing because I’m trying to walk the talk.’’

Despite still recovering from detached retina surgery and not being able to properly prepare for South Florida’s heat and humidity, an exhausted Hervet utilised some of his own mental techniques by resorting to moonballing and stalling in an effort to slow the hard-hitting Markes.

It nearly worked, but serving at 5-4, 40-15 in the second set, Hervet was too tired to put away an overhead, thus opening the door for the lanky, left-handed Markes to break and eventually secure the match.

“He played possum. He knows how. He acted like he was dying and then he plays lights out,’’ smiled Markes, a multiple USTA National champion, but first-time semifinalist in Worlds.

Markes, 59, who played tennis for Weber State in Utah, also took a crack at the pros (Penn Circuit), but after four years of floundering in Challengers packed it in.

“The best thing was breaking my kneecap while training in Phoenix because that forced me to get a real job,’’ said Markes, who works in marketing in Austin, Texas. “I didn’t have a sponsor, no money and was living out of my car or free housing. It was fun, but a grind.’’

After an hour break, Hervet summoned up enough energy to team with Konstantinos Effraimoglou to win their quarterfinal doubles match.

Hervet, who reached No. 1 in singles last year in the 55s, also was ranked first in doubles (50s) in 2013 when he won the World doubles title in Turkey.

He has worked with athletes in soccer, car racing, rugby and equestrian. In tennis, Hervet has consulted or coached the multiple Grand Slam-winning doubles team of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, as well as Jeremy Chardy, Byron Black and Jarkko Nieminen - all top 30 or better singles players.

Hervet considers Bahamian doubles great Mark Knowles as his prized pupil.

“People said he wasn’t mentally strong, but I disagreed and said his problem was he was too emotional on the court,’’ Hervet said. “His emotions tended toward anger or rather the fear of not doing well because he wanted it so much.

“Once he understood that, it became clearer to him how to channel the mental, emotional and physical parts and he became a world-class doubles player.’’

Knowles won 55 doubles titles, including three Grand Slams and 18 Masters titles before fully retiring last year at 45.

As for Hervet, his biggest thrill on Tour was a first-round match against his idol Ilie Nastase, the tempestuous Romanian once ranked No. 1, in the first round of the 1983 Australian Open.

“When I was young I would hit against the wall and my first shot would be Nastase and my second shot would be Stan Smith,’’ Hervet said.

Hervet went down in three straight sets to the 36-year-old Nastase, but it was a memory for a lifetime.



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