Halys' Mbappe Connection & Why His 'Life Is Crazy Good'
French football hero Kylian Mbappe was born on 20 December 1998. Twenty-six months earlier another French athlete from Bondy, Quentin Halys, was born in the same hospital.
Although Halys might not have the profile of Mbappe, he is making a mark of his own in the tennis world. The 26-year-old is playing the best tennis of his career and shows no signs of slowing his ascent.
“It’s so cool. Playing now at the Masters 1000s and the Grand Slams, it’s such a dream,” Halys told ATPTour.com. “Maybe today I’m not enjoying it as much as I should because I’m focused and I want to win, so my goal is to realise I’m playing the best tournaments and to enjoy it even more.”
The Frenchman on Tuesday evening will play red-hot Daniil Medvedev for a place in the Miami Open presented by Itau quarter-finals. Entering the week, he had never won an ATP Masters 1000 main draw match. Halys has come a long way from his days as a young boy who simply enjoyed swinging a racquet around.
“I was just almost every day at the club with a tennis racquet and some balls. I had nothing else to do but play,” Halys said. “But I mean everybody was super happy to play tennis. I think I loved it since the beginning.”
Halys remembers running around with a racquet from as soon as he was able to walk. At a young age, nobody put pressure on him.
“That’s why also maybe I enjoyed it so much, because I was not caring about my level. I was just happy to play against everybody,” Halys said. “I knew I left home when I was 13 years old to go to the camp at the French Federation. That was pretty old I guess. In the early days I was just happy to play, to hit the ball and to have fun.”
For a boy who was just happy to play, Halys developed into one of the world’s best juniors. The former junior No. 3 (2014) appeared to be the future of French tennis. But he was unable to crack the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings until May of last year.
“I feel better in my game. I played some very top guys and I was close to beating them. I’m playing with them, I’m training with them, so now I’m feeling more and more confident at that level,” Halys said. “It brings you a lot of confidence and now winning some matches here, it makes me more confident in my game. I know exactly where I want to be. I’m training maybe harder, maybe smarter as well. This is also the key why now I feel like I can beat many players at this level.”
If Halys was unsure of that, he proved his abilities to the world when he pushed Novak Djokovic in a tight two-setter at the Adelaide International 1. The Serbian was forced to work hard in a 7-6(3) 7-6(5) victory. They had also met in the second round of the 2016 Australian Open, where Djokovic earned a more straightforward win.
“He played like a Top 10 opponent," Djokovic said of Halys in Adelaide.
More than anything, Halys has enjoyed the emotions of those big matches.
“The crowd with its energy, it gives you so much confidence. You know why you’re working so hard to be there and you want to come back as soon as possible,” Halys said. “The crowd is going crazy for him, so it’s never easy to enter on that kind of court against him, but it was pretty fun. I still enjoyed it very much, so I’m excited about the match again because it’s going to be a good one as well.”
Halys knows he will face a tough test against former World No. 1 Medvedev, whom he has not played since an ITF World Tennis Tour event in 2015. But win or lose, the World No. 79 will continue working hard in pursuit of a spot in the Top 20 and the hopes of making a “great run” at Roland Garros, his home Grand Slam.
Halys has dreamt of being in this position since he began walking. Now, it is a reality.
“Maybe sometimes I don’t realise that it was my dream. When I have a bad day, when I’m losing, I’m maybe too grim with myself,” Halys said. “The goal is to be happy because today my life is crazy good and it’s the dream of so many people and it was mine when I was a kid. To really realise, ‘Okay it’s just one loss, it’s not the end of the world. Keep smiling, keep going and that’s it.’”