” It’s difficult… “ When asked about the state of French tennis, while the 2021 edition of the Roland-Garros tournament opens its doors on Sunday, May 30, assiduous observers of the little yellow ball are looking for their words. “Since the circuit resumed in August 2020 after the interruption due to Covid-19, no French or French has made a big performance”, notes Amélie Mauresmo, now a consultant for the new broadcaster, Amazon Prime Video.
If, from the point of view of the hexagonal contingent, the 2020 edition, exceptionally autumnal, could be sparkling until the round of 16, thanks in particular to Hugo Gaston, the 2021 vintage promises to be bubble-free. “For both men and women, French tennis is in difficulty, exposes former player Fabrice Santoro, also recruited by Amazon. There is no certainty, we can only hope that a good surprise will happen. “
Between injuries and mishap, the blue contingent arrives in dispersed order at Porte d’Auteuil, and is reduced to dreaming of an exploit. Or, as Fabrice Santoro, double winner of the Davis Cup with the Blues, turns it, “Let the magic of Roland-Garros operate”.
The recent results speak for themselves: with none of them in the thirty best players of the season (Jérémy Chardy is 37e), the French are no longer part of the world top this year. The time when one envisaged that one of the “New Musketeers”, Gaël Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet or Gilles Simon, would do well in the tournament seems distant.
“In view of the rankings, we could have expected a few years ago that this or that player would be in the second week. Today, if a player is in the second week, it is because he has achieved an exploit, Fabrice Santoro slice. If the classification is respected, there will be no French in the second week. “
Long fall for the Blues
The picture is hardly better for women. If, in the fall of 2020, Caroline Garcia and Fiona Ferro had crossed three laps at Porte d’Auteuil, the 2021 season is like a long fall for the Blue. Since April – and for the first time since 1986 – no Frenchwoman has appeared in the world top 50. This observation illustrates the difficulty in seeing a new generation emerge.
The next generation struggles to find a place in the sun. “A few young shoots are emerging, but the last two years have further complicated things, observes the former coach of Yannick Noah, Patrice Hagelauer. When you’re not in the rankings that allow you to enter the big tables, it’s complicated. “
The consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic are particularly felt for players beyond the 100e global market, observes Fabrice Santoro: “For this second wagon, the freezing of the rankings was difficult to accept, because it harmed them and it slowed down their progress. “
This freeze of the ATP and WTA rankings was put in place following the interruption of the circuit a year ago, to protect players who do not wish to, or cannot travel during the pandemic. Not ending until August, it does not favor fit players.
Frustration and fatalism
With only one victory on the clock for over a year and numerous injuries, Gaël Monfils thus remains in the top 15 in the world. Conversely, despite 14 defeats in 16 games in 2021, Benoît Paire retains the 40e world-class, and has recognized “Take advantage of the system” after his defeat at the Masters 1000 in Rome: “I’m still very well ranked after winning two games in two years. “
This system allows the French – and others – to continue to be qualified for the biggest tournaments, where, despite better results, a certain number of players do not pass the “cut”.
Among the latter is, for example, Arthur Rinderknech, who, faced with this situation, oscillated in early May between frustration and fatalism. “It’s a little embarrassing when you see some players who don’t play, don’t have a great motivation or are late, who take the opportunity to continue to just go to the big tournaments and pocket the big ones prize money [les dotations des tournois]. We say to ourselves that this leaves places lost ”, he noted, questioned by The team.
Like Benjamin Bonzi, another Frenchman in good shape, but mainly playing on the Challenger circuit (the second division of tennis), the 25-year-old has benefited from a wild card (an invitation) from the organizers to compete in Roland-Garros.
If the sky seems overcast over the fortnight of French people, the weather forecast has forecast blue skies over Porte d’Auteuil for the coming week. Enough to dream of a thinning?