French tennis is currently going through a tough period. Despite the country’s rich sporting history, there has been little in terms of success at Grand Slam and APT tournaments in recent years. Currently there are no French players in the top ten, with the highest ranked player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga currently at number 18 in the world. Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation, believes that the attitude of French tennis needs to improve.
This September, Giudicelli stated that French tennis need to stop being “losers”. Speaking to Reuters, Giudicelli said : “What is a successful Grand Slam? It’s the one you win”. He went on to note that out of all the Grand Slams played since the Second World War only three had been won by men, and six by women. He believes that French tennis needs to change its philosophy.
“We say, ‘let’s stop being the losers,’ and make way for a model that says, ‘to be the best in the world, I have to be the best at home and then go to player younger tournaments abroad’”. He pointed out Latvian player Jelena Ostapenko as an example of success. She won the TCBB tournament at 12 and this year won the French Open at the age of 19.
The issues facing French tennis was commented on by Roger Federer ahead of his match against Richard Gasquet at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Federer told the French press that they are in part at fault for underperformance of French tennis players.
“In France, I think they see their players too big too fast, and they become a bit, I would not say ‘spoiled’, but a bit too optimistic too soon instead of finishing developing and passing all the steps”.
The Shanghai Masters has been another disappointing tournament for French Tennis. Six players started the tournament with only three making it to the second round. The country’s highest seeded player in the tournament Lucas Pouille was knocked in the second round by Italian Fabio Fognini. The remaining two French players, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon met in the third round with Gasquet coming out on top in three sets.
Gasquet will now face Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Bwin put Federer as the favourite to win with odds of 1.08 against Gasquet’s 6.00. This season, Gasquet has won one challenger tournament (Szczecin, Poland) and reached the final of the Open Sud de France. In the Grand Slams the furthest he progressed was the third round of the Australian and French Opens. His opponent Roger Federer has turned 2017 in his most successful calendar year since 2009, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Out of the nine tournaments he has played (not counting Shanghai) he has won 5.
With France campaigning to host the Olympics in 2024, Giudicelli will be hoping that French tennis will be able to match up to the occasion. He is currently overseeing the redevelopment plans at Rolande Garros. A new roof will be fitted on the Philippe Chatrier Court. With all the improvements being done to the famous Paris courts, the French Tennis Federation will want to have the players to match the occasion.
Written by Paul Chipman