Larose has sweet smell of successCanadian is playing some superb tennis
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
MONTREAL -- About a month before the Tennis Masters Canada tournament, a television crew interviewed Simon Larose and his sometime coach on centre court at Stade du Maurier, an interview that may have changed his game and his life.
With the player sitting beside him, national team coach Sylvain Bruneau was asked why Larose had never made an impact on the tennis world. He answered candidly.
"I said that he's not disciplined enough," Bruneau recalled yesterday. "I said he wasn't professional enough. I said he's not handling his career seriously enough. Basically, what I said was he was wasting his talent.
"At the end of the interview, he was very upset with me."
"He looked at me and said 'Why would you say all that?' "
"I told him I was just telling the truth. Honestly, I think it got him thinking. I've seen a change in him since then. A change that everybody else has seen this week."
Simon Larose, son of a former professional hockey player, a tennis player who has come up the long way and the wrong way, is having the tournament of his life. If this is all just one burst of an emotional dream -- a great week and nothing more -- then what a dream it is.
But if there's more here than anyone has seen before, a talent Tennis Canada trusted but a personality it believed to be self-defeating, then maybe, just maybe, this week is Larose's coming out party.
A party that almost certainly will end with a match today against the legendary No. 1 seed, Andre Agassi, but no one will have complained about the ride.
This is a Montreal dream match. With Agassi, the favourite here, against its new favourite son.
And in a tournament lacking in personality and with far too many rain delays, Larose has breathed local life into the stadium, with a captivating first-round victory over Gustavo Kuerten and an even more dramatic come-from-behind win over Juan Acususo of Argentina, 7-6, 1-6, 7-5 yesterday afternoon.
And when it ended yesterday, with the crowd on its feet cheering for the 314th-ranked player in the world, there was Larose with his fists his the air, throwing his wrist bands into the crowd, saying thank you over and over again.
Not wanting the moment to end. Not wanting to leave the court.
"For me," he said, "it's just another match."
But when asked what his biggest win was before this week, before his first two wins over top-100 players, he could hardly remember one.
He couldn't remember for a good reason -- there haven't been any wins of consequence.
Simon Larose was never supposed to be the next great one.
He comes from Cap-de-la-Madeleine, which is the tennis equivalent of coming from nowhere. His father, Claude -- not the famous one -- played a handful of NHL games. Larose, himself, never got much beyond the world ranking of 300 as a junior. His professional life, before this week, has been mostly disastrous. The level below the big leagues of tennis -- the challenger series -- he wasn't competitive on.
"When a guy is ranked 300 at the age of 25, there usually is a pretty good reason for it," said Martin Laurendeau, a former pro now working with Tennis Canada. "You know, we always thought he had talent. It was just the rest was missing.
"It's like trying to discipline kids sometimes. You tell them not to do this and not to do that and they do what they want. All of a sudden at a certain age, they start doing it. It clicks in ... that's the way it is with Simon. The only thing that has been holding back Simon is Simon."
ENJOY THE RIDE
For now, at least until today, the story of the kid who came from almost nowhere continues. Who can say where it may go from here?
"You'll know where his game is at when he's playing in South Carolina and he's not on centre court, and he's not getting the calls and nobody knows who he is, and nobody is cheering," coach Bruneau said. "That's when you'll know what kind of player he is."
But let him enjoy this gleeful ride and these moments. There have never been any before, there may not be any later.
Simon Larose, with only one sponsor, no manager, no full-time coach, no support system, has somehow become the star of this show.
"It has been hard for me," he said, about a long career road, lost and winding.
long road stopping for two days of gleeful celebration.