Léolia Jeanjean, Diane Parry, Hugo Gaston, Corentin Moutet: these players gave the French hope during the first rounds of the Roland-Garros tennis tournament. Short hopes for the second week of the grand slam tournament begin without them, on Monday 30 May. As in 2021, no Frenchman managed to qualify for the round of 16, when they were five in the third round.
>> Roland Garros: watch the matches from Monday, May 30 in our live broadcast
The next generation seems to be slow in French tennis. Should we despair, or can we be optimistic? “It’s always very complicated” to become a tennis champion, admits John McEnroe. The former American champion, a seven-time grand slam winner, believes it will work “have a larger fund of future champions “.
franceinfo: When you see the state of French tennis, with one generation retiring and another slowly entering, are you worried about our country?
John McEnroe: You start from a time when there were four guys in the Top 10: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils and Gilles Simon. I thought one of them would win a few majors, but I don’t think anyone would realize how great they were. I don’t see much at the moment. I like to watch Hugo Gaston and Corentin Moutet play, because they are little boys who play against big ones. He has to try drop shots. It fits my mentality. I don’t think it’s the easiest tennis for in France. A few days ago, I was with my old friend, you know, who won here in 1983, [Yannick Noah]. In the United States, we kind of have it, because it’s been almost twenty years since a male player won. I know that the French love their tennis, they are very passionate. So it must be hard to live with.
Why is it so hard to create a champion?
This is always very difficult. Suffice it to say: here, let’s bring someone from the island of Mallorca [dont est originaire de Rafael Nadal] while it was a resort when I played. In my time, if you played against someone from Switzerland [le pays de Roger Federer], it was a good draw. Clearly, the game is faster than ever. It means you have to be better at sporting things, because things are going faster. But at the end of the day, when you reach a certain level, you need a combination of several things. If it was that easy, more people would know. The key at the moment is to have more children playing tennis so that we have a larger supply of future champions. It’s the same in the United States. We need more tennis programs in schools. In my country, the best athletes are playing American football and basketball right now.
You’re the head of the academy in New York. Why this personal investment?
I feel that when I was growing up, I got opportunities that most children didn’t have to play the sport. I want to create a thriving tennis environment in New York, because the last player in the city I remember is my brother. There were very few players in this city and there are many children from the city center who cannot afford to play. I’ve been doing this for a long time and my biggest luck would be if some of the young guys or girls who are with me win the US Open, Roland-Garros or Wimbledon. I was given a lot. So I want to try to give others a chance.
One of the obstacles to becoming a champion is money in France as well as in the United States. BNP Paribas, with which you are affiliated, as well as six other academies around the world, provide scholarships to these young players. Is the financial side so important?
Unfortunately yes. Ever since I started playing, I noticed very quickly that it was too expensive for most people and it got worse. It is therefore even more important than ever to have the support of BNP Paribas and other partners. Without it, it would be very difficult to give these children a chance. The young player must be able to train and travel. In the United States, France, and elsewhere, financial support is more important than ever.