Gilles aims to stand tall against grass court giants

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Gilles Simon will be hoping to put truth to the saying ‘the best things come in small packages’ when he returns to Devonshire Park as the top seed in this year’s AEGON International tournament.

At just six foot, the Frenchman has gained a lot of attention as one of the shorter players on the men’s circuit but has always refused to let this hamper his cause, instead drawing inspiration from former French Open champion Michael Chang who, at 5ft 9”, ‘showed that you don’t have to be tall in order to be a great player’.

While he may be slightly lacking in inches, Simon is not short of talent and enters this year’s AEGON event as the highest-ranked male at number 17 in the world - earning him the top seed spot for the first time ahead of big names such as Philip Kohlschreiber, Juan Monaco and Andreas Seppi.

The 28-year-old last graced the Eastbourne courts in 2010 after being given a wildcard into the competition, where he later went on to reach the final eight before being edged out by compatriot and eventual winner Michael Llodra. The two victories leading up to the quarter-final clash were the first of Simon’s season after a knee injury had threatened to write off the year.

After a season of struggle, Simon came back even stronger, capturing his ninth and tenth ATP titles in 2011 and 2012.

While he has yet to regain the form that saw him crack the world’s top ten as he did in 2009, there’s no doubt he would be encouraged by scalps over Janko Tipsarevic and countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the past year.

The French number two, second only to Tsonga, was recently thrust into the British media as he faced Andy Murray in the third round of the Madrid Masters but the Scot prevailed, condemning Simon to his 15th defeat of the current season.

His form has noticeably improved since then as he equalled his best-ever result in the 2013 French Open last month, beating Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Querrey before coming second best to Roger Federer in the fourth round.

While that may be frustrating to a man who, originating from Nice, France, has always dreamed of securing the elusive trophy on home soil, it ensures he’s in respectable form as he prepares to lead a field of world-class players in Eastbourne this week.