That’s it, Roland-Garros is over. The courts are covered for one year. The Philippe-Chatrier court sounds empty. Even if you strain your ears, you can hear the noises of a Spanish player who continues to write the history of this tournament.
But there is no time to be nostalgic. The circuit does not stop. never. And hardly Rafael Nadal had lifted the Mousquetaires Cup than the big tennis circus got his clicks and palms to be placed on the grass for a few weeks. The transition is as beautiful as it is violent. Ocher clay is replaced by erupting green grass (at least in the beginning), long rallies with short rallies, and slippery slides.
The last two singles Grand Slam victories have been at the bar.
Suddenly, as we move away from this surface made in France (too), the tricolor players shine far less. Well no, absolutely not! Paradoxically, while there are very few grasslands in France, the results of the French in this area are, historically, surprisingly good. Indeed since the Open era, five French players have reached the last four at Wimbledon (for a total of eight semifinals played) and one of them has even played in the final (Cédric Pioline 1997). By comparison, there were seven semifinals with one French player in Melbourne and only four in New York. Roland-Garros remains ahead with 11 semifinals, including a Franco-Frenchman in 1983, although since that year and Yannick Noah’s title, only seven semifinals have included the “Bluve”.
When we look at French women’s tennis, we simply realize that the last two singles Grand Slam victories were in the grass and to that we must add two finals.
How to explain this ease in the bar for French players? Why, of the thirty-three players titled since the Open era, one-third have at least one title on this “so British” surface?
Some reasons, but two of them seem more interesting to me.
They arrive in green with the free mind and light arm.
First, the grassy season comes historically in the wake of Roland-Garros, except when the tournament is played in September, which, since 1891, has occurred only once, requiring pandemics. Suddenly, when the French arrive in ‘s-Hertogenbosch or Stuttgart (or any grassy tour that starts the day after Roland-Garros), they catch their breath. Not that the Paris Grand Slam is a daily chore or a punishment, far from it, but it is a great pressure that, after fifteen days, is heavy on the subconscious. They are required in all directions, whether from the media, family, friends, sponsors … It is non-stop.
So, of course, playing a Grand Slam at home is a great luxury that all future champions want to enjoy. But not only. If you ask any French player, regardless of generation, what Grand Slam he dreams of winning, he or she will tell you without hesitation that it is Roland-Garros. Of course it is good. Of course there is nothing better, but it is exhausting. This weighty superhero cape disintegrates as soon as they board the plane to leave Paris and hit their first balls on the British, German or Dutch bar. They arrive in green with the free mind and light arm.
Another argument that stands and adds to the mood of the French in the bar is their style of play. Indeed, if we look more closely at the identities of the 11 Frenchmen titled, we realize that this is a specific profile. What do Richard Gasquet, Nicolas Mahut, Sébastien Grosjean, Henri Leconte, Fabrice Santoro, Michaël Llodra or even Adrian Mannarino have in common? They all have, as they say, “one hand”. These are players with a more developed touch on the ball than the others. This ability to be very technical is especially effective in grass, where exchanges are short and small play essential. Of course, having a great service is also a big advantage, but with the slowdown on the surface, this is increasingly neutralized, while pure talent is uncontrollable. You have it or you do not have it. And it turns out that a lot of French people have it.
Proof, of the 16 players competing today in the quarterfinals in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, almost 20% are French. It is simply the most represented nationality.
I hope it’s funny …