In 2023, French tennis wants to believe in the rebound

After the farewell of a generation, tricolor tennis, led by a sparkling Caroline Garcia in recent months, hopes to relaunch this season.

By Adrian Mathieu

Number four in the WTA ranking, Caroline Garcia is aiming for a first Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

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Aith his victory in Auckland ahead of the Australian Open, Richard Gasquet will again become the French number one in the ATP ranking. At almost 37 years old, the Biterrois is doing more than resistance: he is living his end of career without complex and at the same time succeeds in affording himself prestigious successes. His success in the final against Cameron Norrie on the 12e world, proves it well. But, if this carelessness is a great pleasure at the start of the year, it is still worrying to see French tennis among men counting on its veterans to bring home cups.

After his coronation in New Zealand, Gasquet himself was puzzled by his new status as French number one. “It is not possible to leave a country like France at this level. In my time, the 42e global was 6e or 7e French. It’s unimaginable that the French number one is 42e global ! It seems crazy to me, what, I can’t say it any other way. Let’s wait for the rest, there are young people who are rising and we have to be positive, hope that they rise as quickly as possible among the best in the world. »

“We were at the bottom of the pool”

2022 undoubtedly represented the end of an era for the tricolor yellow ball. The end of the new musketeers has arrived without us really seeing it coming: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon have retired, Gaël Monfils is struggling to come back physically, while Gasquet no longer has any pressure. And the next generation behind? It is struggling to happen, it is a certainty, and you have to take your pain patiently. Little by little, the French players moved away from the titles and the best places. After the absence of the top 30 came that of the top 40. Last August, there was even only one representative of France in the first 50 players: a situation not seen since 2005.

Even the president of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moretton, conceded to West France last March that his proteges were in the trough of the wave. “When you are at the bottom of the pool, you can only go up. I think we were at the bottom of the pool. Let’s be careful and humble, but I think we’re on the right track. “To the great evils, the great remedies: the FFT recruited at the end of December Ivan Ljubicic, former world number three and coach of Federer, to prepare for the future.

The Croatian will thus have a key role, that of supervising promising young players aged 14 and over in order to accompany them to the elite. “His performance-oriented approach to tennis, at all times and down to the smallest detail, is driven by this culture of winning that we want to instil in our French hopefuls,” said the president of the FFT in a press release. For his part, Ljubicic said he was proud of this new role. “France has a very rich, very promising breeding ground, and I put my experience at the service of this new challenge with total commitment and a strong desire to share the values ​​that forge champions. We think in particular of Arthur Cazaux, Gabriel Debru and Arthur Fils.

Ten years after Bartoli, Garcia can believe it

While waiting for the relief, the eyes are for the moment turned towards the southern hemisphere. For the Australian Open which opens on the night of Sunday to Monday, French tennis will rely more than ever on Caroline Garcia. After her coronation in Cincinnati and at the Masters, the Lyonnaise arrives in Melbourne in the shoes of a favorite, in the company of Swiatek and Jabbeur. An unprecedented situation in her career, but which does not disturb her: “One of the objectives of this year, or the next two years, is to try to go all the way, to win a grand slam. We’ll see if I’m able to do it, but it’s a big challenge that I want to take up, ”announced at a press conference the one who went to the semi-finals of the last US Open.

READ ALSORoland-Garros: why Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will miss French tennisSince Marion Bartoli and her surprise victory at Wimbledon in 2013, French tennis has been desperately waiting for her victory in a grand slam tournament. At 29 and after her superb past season, Caroline Garcia ticks all the boxes to succeed her. Among gentlemen, it has become an annoying habit to remember it: we have been waiting for an heir to Yannick Noah for forty years now. A scarcity that is likely to continue.