French Open

Home hopes look slim at French Open

2015-05-23 14:14
Gilles Simon (AFP)

Paris - French hopes of a first male singles champion at the French Open since Yannick Noah in 1983 are looking slim this year due to injuries and loss of form.

The so-called "golden generation" of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon all have their worries and the gap between them and the top quartet has seldom seen wider.

Simon is currently the French number one, ranked 13th in the world, but he is struggling with a back injury that forced him to pull out of the Nice tournament this week.

Besides he has never gone far at Roland Garros, unlike Tsonga and Monfils, the two players ranked immediately behind him in the world.

Tsonga, who turned 30 last month, is the last Frenchman to reach a Grand Slam final, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open championship match.

He also reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2013 and has some big wins under his belt on clay.

But all has not been well with Tsonga and the French public since the end of last year when a nagging wrist injury force him to pull out of the Davis Cup final against Switzerland in Lille after losing the opening rubber against Stan Wawrinka.

He subsequently played in a series of lucrative exhibition matches in Asia which drew a barrage of criticism and left him feeling bitter.

After a few months of rest, Tsonga is back playing. His results so far this year have been disappointing and there is some apprehension over what reaction he might get from the notoriously hard-to-please Roland Garros fans.

"Since (the Davis Cup) I have had the time to take a look at what people think of me - in the street when we pass each other," he said.

"On the whole I think they are proud of what I have achieved so far. I think it will be the same at Roland Garros.

"I am happy to be playing once again in front of French fans and all the more so because I had had some magic moments here - in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup (against the Czech Republic last year).

"And on the individual level I played a semi-final at Roland Garros in 2013. That's the only time I have managed that in my career. Even if I lost in straight sets to David Ferrer, it remains a great memory for me."

Monfils, who like Tsonga was an outstanding junior, has also a semi-final appearance at the French Open in 2008 when he lost to Roger Federer and he made the last eight last year before losing in five sets to Andy Murray.

As ever, the 28-year-old Parisian is blowing hot and cold, crushing Federer in straight sets in the Davis Cup final on clay last November and beating him again at Monte Carlo in April en route to the semi-finals before missing Rome due to injury and flopping in Madrid.

"I feel great because I think my body is getting better and better every day," he said of his chances in Paris.

"I was a bit bothered with my knee. Had a lot of rehab. I just pick up the racquet maybe four days ago, four, five days ago. Maybe I miss a bit tennis, but every day it's getting better. I have few more days.

"Hopefully I can pass the first round and, you know, just improve my game day after day."

As for Gasquet, a tournament win on clay in Portugal at the start of the month was promising, but his fragile physical state means he will struggle to hold out for two weeks of best-of-five set games.

All in all, the portents are that the long wait for a French male champion at Roland Garros looks likely to extend into a 33rd year.

Read more on:    french open  |  gilles simon  |  tennis

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