Australian Open 2014: Dostoyevsky fan Stéphane Robert books tie with Andy Murray

On his day, he can be as cultured on court as he is off it so Briton needs to beware 

Melbourne

There are not many professional tennis players whose name would feature alongside the words “backpacker”, “youth hostel”, “casino”, “Dostoyevsky” and “sophrology” in the same paragraph, but then again there are not many individuals like Stéphane Robert. The 33-year-old Frenchman, who stands between Andy Murray and a place in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, is one of the game’s characters.

Whether a player who took just four games off Britain’s James Ward three weeks ago in the Brisbane qualifying tournament can threaten Murray is another matter. Murray booked his place in the last 16 with an emphatic 7-6 6-4 6-2 victory over Feliciano Lopez, while Robert, the world No 119, went further into a Grand Slam tournament than he has ever gone before by beating Slovakia’s Martin Klizan 6-0 7-6 6-4.

Like Klizan, Robert was a “lucky loser” who lost in the last round of qualifying but was handed a place in the main draw after a withdrawal. Robert was told he was playing, courtesy of Philipp Kohlschreiber’s injury, just 10 minutes before he went out to play Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene. When Robert lost in qualifying here last year he went back-packing around Australia, playing in Challenger tournaments and staying in youth hostels.

His 2013 itinerary included tournaments in Noumea (New Caledonia), Burnie (Australia), Mersin (Turkey), Ostrava (Czech Republic), Portoroz (Slovenia), Poznan (Poland), Trnava (Slovakia) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan).

Robert won £98,200 last year. By reaching the fourth round here he has already secured £72,200 in prize money. He has earned £560,000 in his career compared with Murray’s £18.5 million. In the past Robert has supplemented his earnings with trips to the casino, which he visited last week, spotting Lopez and Rafael Nadal while he was there.

He is “a little bit up” in terms of profit but is not planning a return visit. “I don’t go there trying to earn money,” he said. “If you go to earn money, you lose money.”

Robert realised his only major tennis ambition by beating Tomas Berdych at the French Open three years ago. “The only major goal I had in tennis was to go on a run at Roland Garros,” he said. “As Thierry Roland [the celebrated French TV commentator] said after France won the World Cup, ‘I can die happy.’

“It’s the same thing for me. I realised my ambition. OK, it wasn’t the greatest performance of the century, but I did my thing.”

An avid reader who likes Russian authors (“Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy”) and Le Monde, Robert practises sophrology which, according to the Sophrology Academy, is “the science of the consciousness in harmony” and “a life-balancing technique made of very practical physical and mental exercises aiming at an alert mind in a relaxed body”.

Asked what sophrology he had used before his victory yesterday, Robert said: “In the morning I did yoga breathing. I do that to try to find inner calm. I did that at the hotel and on the court. It helps my concentration. On the court I try to make myself aware of everything. For example, I bounce the ball on my racket for a minute so that I can concentrate on the noise.”

Murray, who remembers Robert (below) from his own days coming up through the Challenger ranks, was pleased with his form against Lopez, who has now lost all eight of their meetings. “Today was a big step up for me,” Murray said. “Feliciano is a top-30 player. He’s a tricky opponent.”

He added: “My expectations are still fairly low just now. I’m not expecting too much of myself, but obviously with each round that goes by I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the court and the body is going to adjust to playing matches again. I don’t know how far I can go, but I’m doing OK so far.”

Asked if he had been to the casino, Murray said he had made two visits, but only before the start of the tournament. “A lot of the players go to the casino,” he said.

“A lot of the Americans used to go to the casino during the event. I think when Marcelo Rios played here there were rumours going around that he would have needed to make the final to break even. A lot of players go there, but not me during the tournament.”

Murray’s brother, Jamie, and his Australian partner, John Peers, also went out of the tournament, beaten 6-4 6-4 by Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen. After the match Jamie gave further insight into his frightening experience 48 hours earlier when he suffered heat exhaustion after playing in temperatures of more than 42C. “I started feeling bad when I got back to the changing rooms,” he said. “I was really light-headed. I just wanted to lie down. Then I started to cramp in my legs.”

Jamie thought his problems had been a result of not eating or drinking properly before the match after oversleeping because his wake-up alarm failed to go off. Asked whether he was as meticulous as his brother in his pre-match preparations, Jamie said: “He’s got the finances to be able to do that. A lot of us don’t have five or six guys following us and watching our every move.”

Andy suggested his brother’s problem was that he relied on the alarm on his phone. “He almost messed up his whole Australian Open,” Andy said. “He will learn from that and will probably never do it again. You should always get someone to call the room. But he was fairly lucky and woke up in time. They actually woke him up. They called him because his car was there.”

 

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
News
news
News
peopleCampaign 'to help protect young people across the world'
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
i100
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker