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French tennis relies on the old guard

Text by Emmanuel VERSACE

Latest update : 2009-05-24

With the four young 'Musketeers' down to two, Alize Cornet not in the best of shape and Marion Bartoli uneasy on clay, Amelie Mauresmo (photo) seems to be France's only hope at this year's Roland Garros tournament.

Semi-finalist in the 2008 edition of Roland Garros, Gael Monfils will probably be conspicuous by his absence at this year’s tournament. The friendly game lost against Marcos Baghdatis (6-4, 6-0) was tough on the young Frenchman, who limped off the court with a foot injury. “Le Monf” keeps his hopes up, but Patrice Dominguez, the French Tennis league’s technical director, seems less convinced: “Gael [Monflis] is at his best on clay courts; getting injured right before the tournament just wasn’t lucky.”


With Richard Gasquet barely recovering from a bad experience in Florida, the two remaining ‘Musketeers’ still in line for the title are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon.


Handling pressure was never Simon’s main strength, but Patrice Dominguez insists it’s a “psychological block he can overcome”, suggesting he may have rushed into this grand slam a little too soon.


Tsonga claims to be serene and well-prepared as the tournament approaches, but Dominguez is more cautions, pointing out that Tsonga played barely three games on clay this season.


French tennis can still count on its wizard, Fabrice Santoro, who will be fighting his final tournament at the Porte d’Auteil. At 36, he has lucidly tempered his ambitions.


Nothing is certain either in the woman’s field. Alize Cornet played an unremarkable Fed Cup and hasn’t won more than two games in a row since last February.


Marion Bartoli won the Monterrey tournament and reached the Brisbane open semi-finals, but clay isn’t it her strong point.


All hope for Gallic tennis therefore seems to rest on Amelie Mauresmo, who completed a very impressive tournament in Madrid, reaching the semi-finals and beating the world’s number four seed, Russian Elena Dementieva. She’s physically ready for a strong competition, that is if she doesn’t break under pressure as she has in the past.


Although chances of a French victory seem slim on paper, all tennis fans know that the Gaulois are at their best in the position of outsiders and underdogs. A glimmer of hope, perhaps?


Date created : 2009-05-22