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 


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.”


Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments