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.
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.”