One of the recurring and most exciting storylines of the French Open every year is the fortunes of the home players.
On the men’s side there has not been a French winner since Yannick Noah in 1983. That’s 33 years since any home success on the men’s side of the draw, and the French feel it is time that changed. With many prominent names in the top 50, French tennis is not short of talented individuals. With so many hopefuls looking to break the French duck at Roland Garros, let’s take a look at some of their best prospects heading into the second grand slam of the year.
Assessing French Male Chances At Roland Garros
Jo Wilfried Tsonga
Last year- Semifinals
Previous best- Semifinals (2013, 2015)
Going into Roland Garros as the French number one puts pressure on Tsonga but it is nothing he has not experienced before. As a two time Masters 1000 winner and former Australian Open finalist, the 31 year old is the most successful Frenchman from this ‘golden generation’, however he has not been able to turn his power and flair into grand slam success.
Tsonga may feel that his previous two semi finals here were missed opportunities. 2013 he was favorite to beat David Ferrer but was let down by the crowd who were exhausted after the Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal epic that preceded it. Last year he failed to take his chances against a rather flat Stan Wawrinka.
The chances of Tsonga breaking the over 30 year duck are quite low, but if he can catch fire then the Frenchman could go deep again. His clay court level has grown over the years and he is one of those people who thrives off the energy of the crowd. It is likely that Tsonga exits the competition at the quarter final stage, but a lot depends on his draw
Last year- Round 4
Previous best- Round 4 (2011,2012,2013,2015)
The world number 10 is a former semifinalist at Wimbledon and the US Open, but at the French he has never made it past the fourth round. Clay has never been his preferred surface and his record against the top players is not exactly great, but with a good draw Gasquet can do some damage.
The Frenchman’s one handed backhand is up there with the best in the world and he is one of the more consistent players on the tour. Gasquet should live up to his seeding, but from there it depends on the draw. Being 10th in the world means he faces a player ranked 5-8 in the round of 16 which works to his advantage given his struggles with the elite.
Last year- Round 4
Previous Best- Semifinals (2008)
Tsonga might be the highest ranked Frenchman in the draw, but many will look at Monfils as the favorite out of the home players to perhaps go all the way. ‘La Monf’ made the final four here in 2008 and enjoys the atmosphere generated by the French crowd.
Monfils may be known for his showmanship, but this year we have seen a more serious side to the charismatic world number 13. He had success at Monte Carlo where he made the final and his game suits the clay. Monfils is one of the quickest players on tour and he has enough firepower to hit through the dirt.
A lot will depend on his draw, but Monfils might be France’s best shot at a winner this year. The crowd inspires him, the clay is good for his game and on his day he can beat anyone. He might just be a dark-horse for the title.
Gilles Simon will be an ever present in the draw. The Frenchman is one of the more consistent players on tour, but really lacks the weapons to beat the top players. That said he could benefit from any openings that present themselves.
Benoit Paire has plenty of weapons, but his unpredictable nature makes it difficult to read how far he can go. Paire may crash out early or he may have a good run here. As usual it just depends on the day with the 26 year old. Paire certainly has the tools to do well on clay and will be a big threat for anyone in the draw
Lucas Pouille will be a name to look out for over the two weeks. The 22 year old is enjoying his best season yet and reached his first Masters semi finals in Rome. His recent results mean that Pouille will be seeded, and it will be interesting to see if he can do any damage at Roland Garros.
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