French no closer to home-grown champion
Originally published on: 29/05/12 00:00
Yannick Noah, who lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 1983, is the last Frenchman to win in Paris, while Mary Pierce was the last Frenchwoman, 12 years ago.
For all their strength in depth, particularly in the men’s game, the French do not have players who look capable of breaking the stranglehold of those at the top of the game, especially at their home Grand Slam tournament. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No.5, reached the Australian Open final four years ago, but is unlikely to threaten on clay and said earlier this month that there was no chance of French success at Roland Garros. Gael Monfils, a former semi-finalist, was arguably France’s best prospect this year, but pulled out of the tournament with a knee injury.
Marion Bartoli is the only realistic hope of success among the home women, especially after she reached the semi-finals last year, but the next highest ranked Frenchwoman is Pauline Parmentier, the world No.62. Alize Cornet, Stephanie Foretz Gacon and Mathilde Johansson are the other French women in the world’s top 100. A total of 12 home players started out in the 128-strong field for the women’s singles.
In the men’s draw there were 17 French starters, including six wild cards and two qualifiers. With four men in the world’s top 20 – Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet – some significant names could miss out on qualification for the Olympic tournament, in which each country can have a maximum of four singles players plus two doubles players. Julien Benneteau (world No.32 in singles) and Michael Llodra (No.57) will be hoping to earn their Olympic passages in the doubles.