Analysis: Is French tennis doomed or will it rise again?
Despite having a total of 18 experienced stars and talented Next-Gen players in Roland Garros 2021, no French men crossed the second round of the tournament. It turned out to be the worst performance in 53 years.
21 French men and women featured in the qualifiers at Roland Garros and not even one player made it to the main draw of the tournament.
The popular quartet of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (36), Gilles Simon (36), Richard Gasquet (35), and Gael Monfils (34) is not a strong force on the ATP Tour anymore. They have suffered injuries and a significant dip in form leading to a high level of inconsistency.
There are exciting times too for France in the future with a promising set of Next-Gen players. It comprises Hugo Gaston (20), Corentin Moutet (22), Evan Furness (22), Ugo Humbert (22), Alexandre Muller (24), and Arthur Rinderknech (25).
SportCo analyzes how French tennis thrived from 2008 to 2016 and how the performances have faded in recent years (2017 to 2021)
Best Performances of veteran French men’s players from 2008 to 2016
|2008||Runner-up - Australian Open and stormed into the top 10 in the ATP rankings||3rd round finishes in Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open and was World number 7||Semifinals - French Open - lost to Federer in 4 sets and was defeated in Thailand Open semis by Tsonga||Won the Sydney International doubles and runner-up - Stuttgart Open - lost to del Potro|
|2009||Quarters - Melbourne Park and won Shanghai ATP-1000 doubles title||Quarters - Melbourne Park, ranked No. 6 and won the PTT Thailand Open.||Quarters - French Open, runner-up - Paris Masters, and entered top 10 rankings||Semifinals - Brisbane Open, Medibank Open, Sydney, and the Moselle Open|
|2010||Semifinal - Australian Open and quarterfinal - Wimbledon||Won his 7th ATP singles title in the Metz Open and led France to Davis Cup Finals||Quarters - US Open, won his 3rd singles title Montpellier, and runner-up at Paris Masters again||Won the Nice Open to clinch his 6th career title, and returned to the Top-10 of the rankings|
|2011||Semis - Wimbledon, quarters - US Open, and became World number 6||Won the Sydney International and the Hamburg Open||Runner-up Kooyong Classic, Quarters - French Open, and was No.7 in the ATP Rankings||Crossed 250 wins on the ATP Tour, lost in 4th rounds - French Open - Djokovic, and to Murray - Wimbledon|
|2012||Quarters - French Open, Semis - Wimbledon, and Silver Medal Doubles - London Olympics||Captured the Bucharest Open title, his 10th career singles title.||Reached two finals - Doha Open and Montpellier Open||4th round jinx in all 4 grand slams, Runner-up - Estoril Open, and Bronze Medal Doubles - London Olympics|
|2013||Quarters - Melbourne Park and Semis - French Open||Won the Moselle Open title beating Tsonga in the finals||Runner-up in the Nice Open and Winston-Salem Open||Semifinals - US Open and 2 titles - Doha Open and Montpellier Open|
|2014||4th round jinx in all 4 grand slams, won the Rogers Cup.||Runner-up in Shanghai Masters - lost to Federer||Finals - Doha Open and Quarters - French Open and US Open||Runner-up - Montpellier Open and the Aegon International|
|2015||Semifinal - French Open and quarters - US Open, and back to Top 10||Won 12th title - Marseille Open and Quarters - Wimbledon||Finals - Marseille Open and Back to Top-15 of the ATP rankings||Won the Montpellier Open and Semifinals - Wimbledon, back to Top-10 for 4th time|
|2016||Quarters - Wimbledon - lost to Murray and US Open quarterfinals - defeated by Djokovic||Semifinals - Shanghai Masters - lost to Murray||Quarterfinals - Australian Open and Semifinals - US Open, Monte Carlo finals, and became No.8 in rankings||Won the Montpellier Open for 4th time and Quarters - French Open - lost to Murray|
How the French quartet of Tsonga, Simon, Monfils, and Gasquet flattered to deceive from 2017 to 2021?
|2017||1st Round - French Open and 2nd Round - US Open||A poor 16-25 win-loss record and was ranked outside the Top-50 for the 1st time in his career.||3rd Round - Wimbledon and US Open, progressed beyond Round of 16 only three times, dropped to 46 in rankings||1st Round - Wimbledon and the US Open. Missed 3 ATP Masters tournaments - due to an Appendicitis surgery|
|2018||3rd Round - Australian Open and missed the rest of the season - knee surgery, fell out of the top 200||2nd Round - Australian Open - left thigh injury, and 2nd Round - US Open||2nd Round exits - Australian Open and the US Open.||3rd Round - Australian, French, and the US Open. 1st Round exit - Wimbledon, suffered an abductor injury|
|2019||2nd Round - Australian and French Open, and 1st Round - US Open||Lost in all 4 grand slams in the second round||2nd Round - Australian Open and 1st Round - Wimbledon||Hernia surgery, 2nd Round - French Open, and 1st Round - Wimbledon and the US Open|
|2020||1st Round - Australian Open and did not play the rest of the season - back injury||2nd Round - Australian and US Open, and 1st Round - French Open||Lost in 1st Round - French Open and did not play US Open||1st Round - French Open and 2nd Round - US Open|
|2021||1st Round exits in 4 tournaments in a row||1st Round - Australian Open and French Open||1st Round - Australian Open and the 2nd Round - French Open||Second Round - French Open and 1st Round exits in 3 tournaments|
How have the French Next-Gen players upped their game from 2019 to 2021?
|2019||Won a Futures title, Italy, and reached 4 ITF Finals|
Won the Chennai Challenger title and reached the Third Round,
|Won ATP Challenger titles in Hong Kong and Switzerland||Won the Cherbourg Challenger, reached the 4th Round - Wimbledon, beat Coric, Goffin, Monfils, and Sinner||Won the Blois ATP Challenger Doubles title in June and runner-up in Glasgow Challenger in September||Won 2 Montastir M15 ATP Challenger titles and clinched the Tabarka M15 ATP Challenger title|
|2020||4th Round - French Open - lost to Thiem in 5 sets||Beat Wawrinka, Raonic, Evans, and reached the Third Round of the US Open||Won 3 ITF Tournaments in Greece in November 2020 (M15 Heraklion Series)||Won the Auckland Open and the Antwerp Open, beat higher-ranked players, Ruud, Shapovalov, Isner, and Fognini||Played qualifiers in Australian and French Open - semifinalist - Marbella and Ortisei Challenger||Won 2 Hardcourt ATP Challenger titles in France and Canada in January and March 2020 respectively|
|2021||Runner-up Rome ATP Challenger in April and Semis in Cherbourg and Oeiras Challenger||Semis - Murray River Open and Quarterfinals - Estoril Open||Won ATP Challenger titles in Spain and Portugal in January and February this year||Semifinals - Marseille Open, Quarterfinals - Montpellier Open and Estoril Open||Australian Open - Second Round, and semifinalist - Biella 5 Challenger||Won the Istanbul Hardcourt ATP Challenger title in January and semis at Ostrava Challenger|
What’s going wrong for the quartet of Tsonga, Simon, Monfils, and Gasquet in 2021?
Biggest weakness this season
|A poor win-loss record of 1-6, needs to improve his second serve win % - 51 and Return Games win % - 15.1|
|A below-par win-loss record of 2-10, has to concentrate on deciding sets win % - 50 and second serve win % - 48.7%|
|An unsatisfactory 2-6 win-loss record, has to boost tiebreak win % - 55.2 and breakpoint conversion rate 39.4%|
|Has won only 52.6% of deciding sets in 2021 and needs more consistency with 8 wins and 7 losses|
Aspects where the Next-Generation of French tennis should focus in 2021?
|Player Name||Areas of Improvement|
|Hugo Gaston||Needs to boost his win-loss record of 2-4, exited many ATP Challengers in the first round, has to work on second-serve win% (45 to 50%)|
|Corentin Moutet||Has a 9-6 win-loss record this season, can win more matches with his two-handed backhand, must convert more breakpoints, and improve tiebreak win % of 54.5%|
|Evan Furness||Missed a spot in the main draw of the French Open after losing in 3rd round of qualifying, needs to reduce double fault count and increase breakpoint conversion|
|Ugo Humbert||Has a disastrous 9-13 win-loss record in 2021, the southpaw has lost 6 out of his last 7 matches. Can strengthen his big serve to clinch more clashes|
|Alexandre Muller||Lost in 1st round of qualifying in the French Open, need to make his two-handed backhand more potent, can consider not playing doubles in ATP Challengers as it affects his performance in singles|
|Arthur Rinderknech||Lost in 1st round of the French Open, lacks consistency with a 5-5 win-loss record this season, needs to boost first serve win % of 60 which has been a trend in his losses.|
The famed French quartet of Tsonga, Simon, Monfils, and Gasquet share an impressive 57 ATP titles between them. With their days numbered due to inconsistency and injuries, the Next-Gen has to take over the mantle now.
The French tennis fans are awaiting a new champion after Yannick Noah won Roland Garros way back in 1983 (38 years ago). While tennis players from France always have athleticism and shot-making skills, they are not able to handle the pressure of big matches. They also lose from strong positions against higher-ranked players.
“Of course it is the end of an era (Myself, Tsonga, Simon, and Monfils), we are there, it is incredible for us to play Roland Garros, we are a great generation, yeah, we need more players to come, hope it will be the same for the French future,” said Gasquet after his straight-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the second round.
"I am convinced that the young players we have now, the 16-18-year-olds, probably within one to three years will take up the baton, we have had lows and we have bounced back,” opined Guy Forget, French Open tournament director, sounding confident about French tennis in the years to come.
Undoubtedly, France is no longer the powerhouse on the global tennis map and the likes of Russia, Italy, and Spain have taken over.
The Federation Francaise de Tennis (FTF) will have to work from the grassroots to take French tennis back to its glory days. The young messieurs will have to play fearlessly to prevent their nation from falling into a big mess.
Featured Image Credits - Eurosport