For French tennis, this Open feels like ‘the end of an era’

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PARIS — Roland Garros conjures up nostalgic photos — the heat of town within the spring, packed eating places and a crowd going wild as a house participant fights again for a heroic victory.

This yr, the eating places are full and the climate has been good, however the sight of victorious French gamers has been virtually nonexistent.

For the primary time since 1968, when tennis turned skilled, no French gamers, males or girls, have reached the third spherical, from a complete of 29.

The entrance web page of L’Equipe, the French sports activities newspaper, instructed the sorry story on Friday: “There aren’t any extra French within the first week,” learn the headline, with the phrase “second” crossed out.

The decline of French girls’s tennis, because the retirement of Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, has been well-documented. Now it appears the lads are slipping away.

“In fact it is the top of an period,” stated Richard Gasquet, who was overwhelmed by 13-time champion Rafael Nadal on Thursday. “I am 35. [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga is 36, [Gilles] Simon is 36, and Gael [Monfils] is 34.

“For us, it is even nice to be there [at Roland Garros]. In fact we’re a fantastic era. I hope it is going to be the identical for the French future. Now’s slightly bit tough, however we now have to see who’s coming and I hope many gamers will come sooner or later.”

For a nation with a wealthy tennis historical past, from Suzanne Lenglen to the 4 Musketeers — Jean Borotra, Rene Lacoste, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon — to Yannik Noah, Pierce and Mauresmo, it’s undeniably a low second.

Noah was the final French man to win any Grand Slam singles title, when he beat Mats Wilander in 1983, and Pierce was the final French winner at Roland Garros in 2000.

On the lads’s aspect, France has loved one thing of a golden era, even when they by no means fairly managed to hit the final word heights of Grand Slam glory.

Tsonga reached the Australian Open ultimate in 2008, whereas Monfils and Gasquet have made the semifinals of a minimum of one Grand Slam occasion, to not point out profitable quite a few titles on the ATP Tour. In 2017, France gained the Davis Cup for the primary time since 2001.

France has 11 males within the ATP Tour prime 100 and 4 girls within the prime 100 on the WTA Tour, numbers that the majority nations could be happy with.

“At present, there will not be many nations that would boast of being actually forward of us,” stated Tsonga, who missed virtually all of 2020 with a again damage. “In fact, there are just a few. There are just a few Grand Slam winners, however … we’re not the final. If tomorrow, we needed to make a rating … as we may see with the Davis Cup, we had been all the time among the many prime nations on this planet.

“The Japanese, they’re on the lookout for a champion, the Chinese language, too. All people is on the lookout for a champion. At present, in France, we’re on the lookout for one.”

France’s destiny contrasts with that of the USA (4 males within the third spherical) and Italy (5).

Gasquet recommended that the pandemic, and the following restrictions on freedom gamers have accepted to play, has performed a job. However greater than something, it appears there’s a large hole between the outdated and new generations.

“We had been within the prime 10 or 20, we had been fairly often within the [last 16], the quarters,” Gasquet stated. “There have been guys who had been within the semifinals. We did not ask ourselves the query [about French tennis then].

“Now … aside from Gaël, even when he misplaced at this time, I believe he has extra seasons [left] than we now have, however when there are 4 gamers who begin to get a bit drained, it is as much as the brand new era to take over. I hope that occurs as quickly as potential.”

A few of it’s cyclical, however this second has been coming. Just one Frenchman and three French girls made the third spherical in 2020; in 2019, it was 5 males and no girls and in 2018, it was 5 males and two girls.

However whereas the ladies have some children to stay up for — former junior world No. 1 Clara Burel is simply 20 years outdated, however ranked inside the highest 150 — the cabinet on the lads’s aspect seems to be comparatively empty.

Gasquet stated the nation has expertise and that he and the opposite older gamers want to help.

“I believe there are some superb gamers behind,” he stated. “I believe we now have to attempt to push them, that the outdated assist them slightly bit. We all know that it is a tough time for everybody. Now we have to attempt to assist everybody so that there’s a good era that’s arising in French tennis. It is essential for everybody.

“We’ll all the time have gamers within the 50, that is not the issue. We’d like gamers within the prime 10, like we have had for 30 or 40 years. I hope that it’ll occur. It’s a must to consider in it and push everybody to the highest, it is essential.”

Tsonga stated the French Tennis Federation must work for everybody, not simply these primarily based on the nationwide tennis middle in Paris.

“It’s needed for everybody to get into this mind-set, be it the Federation or anybody else, the small golf equipment within the departments, within the areas,” Tsonga stated.

“The Federation should additionally give them the means to specific themselves and to have the ability to observe their younger individuals in addition to potential, that the gamers are accompanied, regardless of the place they’re, in Lille, Good or Paris.”

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