After hitting rock bottom, French tennis continues to dig. 2021 had already delivered a sad record, when no Habs had gone further than the second round at Roland-Garros. On Sunday May 22, for the first time since 1999, the Parisian Grand Slam opened without any Blue being among the seeded players in the tournament, this guarantee offered to the 32 best male and female players in the ATP and WTA rankings not to meet in their first two matches. This year again, it will not be a question of predicting a possible successor to Yannick Noah or Mary Pierce, the last French titleholders, in 1983 and 2000.
The generation of the “four musketeers”, carried into the men’s table by the semi-finals of Gaël Monfils in 2008 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2013 then 2015, will soon only offer twilight. The 22and world place of the first allowed him to dream of a surprise course like the quarter-final of Richard Gasquet six years ago, but a discomfort in the heel dragged since the start of the season on clay forced the French number one to package last week.
When the second could see his fortnight come down to a single afternoon since the draw reserved for him, for this Tuesday, May 24, a very high first step in the person of Casper Ruud, world number 8. At 37, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will end his career after his thirteenth Roland-Garros, already “relieved to know it’s the last” : “Because I still have my mind and my body telling me it’s time to stop”, he conceded at a press conference.
Gilles Simon, who, like Tsonga, owes his participation to an invitation from the organizers, will imitate him at the end of the season, after saying he is aware that his level “declining steadily since a few years “. Finally, fell back to the 75and line of the world ranking, Richard Gasquet does not seem more convinced of his chances: the 35-year-old player is announced in the team of commentators of France Télévisions, as soon as his tournament is over. Even if his velvet backhand still allowed him to afford a prestigious victory against world number two Daniil Medvedev during the preparation tournament in Geneva.
The younger generation is waiting
There remain the unknowns Benoît Paire (rackets more often broken than applied to make sparks), Alizé Cornet (quarter-finalist at the Australian Open in January, his best Grand Slam performance, at 32), or Lucas Pouille , whose subscription to the infirmary for two seasons has tarnished the hopes born of a last four in a major tournament, in Melbourne, in 2019.
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Freed from sanitary gauges this year, the stands are watching for new faces to reconnect with the thrills. Problem: the younger generation is waiting, or struggling to confirm after the spectacular performances of Fiona Ferro and Hugo Gaston, both eighth finalists two years ago.
If the Blues invite themselves more often to the trophy presentations among the juniors, many stumble at the qualifying stage for the main draw, where only Geoffrey Blancaneaux has offered himself a place this year out of the 27 Frenchmen involved. In 2016, the Francilien lifted the cup in front of Félix Auger-Aliassime, another hope installed since in the world top 10, and become one of the ambassadors of the little yellow ball in Canada, new stronghold alongside Spain, from Russia and Italy.
Changes “every two-three years” at the head of the federation
Asked by The Team on the sidelines of the last preparation tournament in Rome, where no Tricolore was qualified, the German Jan de Witt, former coach of Gaël Monfils and Gilles Simon, explained this sad situation by too frequent changes in the direction of the French federation . “We do something, then new people come in and do something different”he analyzed, a year after the arrival of Gilles Moretton as president of the FFT. “If we want to build a program that brings players to the top, it will take at least five years. And probably between eight and ten years to start seeing results. »
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To achieve the objectives set for 2024 by the national technical director, Nicolas Escudé – two women and two men in the top 20, four Grand Slam quarter-finalists and three Olympic or Paralympic medals at the Paris Games in 2024 –, the training should in particular “acculturate to everything covered by the mental dimension and give it a significant place with players and coaches”, slips Francisca Dauzet, new commissioned on the issue of mental support within the FFT.
Djokovic, Alcaraz and Swiatek favorites
Away from the courts until October, Roger Federer is absent from the tournament. Rafael Nadal, record holder of victories in Paris (13), appears physically diminished, and the world number one and defending champion, Novak Djokovic, is in the same part of the table as the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the man to beat this season. on clay. The women remain on eight different winners, but the Polish Iga Swiatek is the only favorite: surprise winner in 2020, she has been undefeated for 28 games.