When Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert hit his final forehand on Monday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to defeat Spaniard Fernando Verdasco for the first time on his fourth attempt, it was more than a typical victory; it was one full of emotion.
The 28-year-old did not simply sign his name on the television camera, but he wrote ‘Notre Dame’ with a broken heart underneath it. Tragedy struck on Monday when the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire, burning deep into the night.
“I think many French were affected by what happened in Paris, Notre-Dame. And when we are French and we enjoy Paris, this beautiful city, we are proud of Paris. And when we see Notre-Dame on fire and the spire crumbling down, that was really shocking for me yesterday evening,” Herbert said. “I said to myself that if ever I won, I would like to send a message of love for Notre-Dame that was crumbling down and that I was very affected yesterday evening.”
The cathedral was completed nearly 700 years ago, and has been a popular tourist attraction for countless people around the world.
“The Notre-Dame Cathedral is just emblematic and wonderful, so when you arrive in Paris you just admire the beauty of Notre-Dame,” Herbert told ATP Tennis Radio.
ATP Tennis Radio Speaks To Herbert About The Fire:
The fire did not just emotionally touch the Frenchmen playing in Monte-Carlo, though. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic saw the news late Monday night and while he has not discussed it with the French players yet, he did talk about the tragedy with his team.
“It's one of the most iconic cultural, religious infrastructures in Europe. It's quite shocking to see that. As I understood, I also saw that simultaneously, at the same time in Jerusalem, a mosque was burning, as well,” Djokovic said. “It's really sad seeing those iconic buildings and structures fall like that. I'm sending my prayers and of course my best wishes to Parisians, all French people. Hopefully Notre-Dame will rise again.”
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has not spoken to the press since the incident, but he shared his support via social media on Monday evening, saying, "Going to sleep still under shock with the images we see in Paris. All my support to all Parisians and French people and authorities."
Frenchman Gilles Simon has two sons, and he just took them for a ride on the Seine River last month to show them the views, including the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
“I think that, like everybody else, I was really sad,” Simon said. “Of course I saw the images, and it's a real pity.
“[It’s also] what it means to people from the world, I would say. Paris is Paris. So many people like to come and visit so I think many people are sad,” Simon told Tennis Channel. “Of course I was living there one month ago. I was on the boat, on La Seine going around and showing it to my kids... we are lucky to have this and we are all extremely sad and depressed about what happened.”
Listen TO ATP Tennis Radio's Interview With Simon:
Another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, echoed similar sentiments to his countryman. The former World No. 5 may have retired from his match against American Taylor Fritz, but he knows there are bigger things than a tennis match, like the tragedy in Paris.
“It is something that is really sad for the French people but also for everybody, for the whole world, actually, because this was a monument that was well known all over the world,” Tsonga said. “It was really special in Paris, therefore in France, so we are really proud of that monument. We are really sad of what happened yesterday.”