If French footballers dragged an image of world champions in friendly matches until 1998, the French tennis federation has long had the reputation of producing the best juniors in the world, then unable to win at the highest level. level. Like a Paul-Henri Mathieu, this year celebrating the 20 years of his junior title at Roland-Garros, which he has never confirmed on the floor above.
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Three of the four “musketeers”, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils lifted a junior grand slam trophy, with at the end of their very honest career a single major tournament final for Tsonga in 2008 in Melbourne. Patrice Hagelauer, who was the patron of sports for a long time in the federation, speaks of a victory in a junior tournament as a “Mission very well in the bac, which does not guarantee to succeed then very difficult competitions”.
Lessons from the past
However, it seems that something is happening in the kingdom of small French aces who have enchanted the courts of Auteuil since the beginning of the fortnight. If the old ones have passed without glory by the trap, we have witnessed the emergence of a new generation of young people who are not cold in the eyes, like Hugo Gaston or Clara Burel. Two pure products from the French industry, respectively former world number 2 and number 1 for juniors.
They have benefited from the lessons of the past: the Federation has thus given up on forcing all young people into the same mold. Some train in federal facilities, others stay at home with private trainers. “Before, we trained in the federation, in a national center, and when we were outside, we had very little help, explains the national technical director, Pierre Cherret. Today there is no one way to be successful, but ways to be successful. “
No more painful separations between children and parents, which have long been banned from the stands. Local trainers are no longer considered to be mercenaries confined to their land; the Federation has even released a budget to allow them to travel with their foal to European tournaments under 14 years old.
And it works. The proof: the French camp arrived on the courts of Porte d’Auteuil with nothing less than the winner of the last internationals in Australia, category… junior (under 18). By beating his compatriot Arthur Cazot in the final in Melbourne, Harold Mayot even grabbed first place in the world junior rankings, an honorary title.
Never have the French juniors been so present
The 2020 French junior vintage is exceptional for boys, but also for girls, which is new. These young shoots benefit from the best coaches, former good players who have all coached at the senior level, such as Thierry Tulasne, Tarik Benhabiles or Jérôme Potier who do not hesitate to launch their proteges as sparring partners of the greats during Cup matches. Davis or Fed Cup.
This year, the composition of the junior painting, which began on Sunday, October 4, reflects this French improvement. There were no less than 13 little blues out of the 64 in the big junior boys table. Six entered directly without invitation, thanks to their ranking, while there were between one and four from 2009 to 2016. The same goes for the girls: they were six admitted directly on their ranking. Between 2009 and 2016, they were between two and… zero.
Another numerical clue gives a smile to an aging Federation relying heavily on the new generation to give pep to its practitioners. The best French juniors are not content with the ITF (International tennis federation) ranking, sympathetic but honorary. Only the ATP rankings for boys and WTA for girls count, made up of first results in small professional tournaments, Futures and Challenger. Harold Mayot, the best French junior already appears in the 411e place and Elsa Jacquemot at 525e.