Australian Open: “French tennis players are in their place today”

La Croix: Why do French players fail to reach the last four of a Grand Slam tournament?

Patrice Hagelaeur: On the men’s side, for a few years, we simply haven’t had players who are at the level to win Grand Slams. Since the Tsonga-Gasquet-Monfils generation, the French reservoir has fluctuated around 40e place in the ATP ranking, which explains why we do not find French players in the last four of a Grand Slam, or even in the round of 16.

Some players like Lucas Pouille or Ugo Humbert had to deal with certain injuries, even though they showed great promise. They are far from competing with the top 10 in the world. France is in a dip, but it will be interesting to scrutinize the next generation. Very young players like Luca Van Assche (18) or Gabriel Debru (17) have real potential.

In women, the problem is a little different. Caroline Garcia is world number four, and we feel that the problem is elsewhere.

In mental preparation in particular?

pH: All coaches will tell you the same thing: you play with your body, your technique and your physique. These are the necessary basics. But all that is insufficient if you don’t have the mind and the “heart”. If you are unable to control your emotions, you cannot win. We play to win, not not to lose. When we start to tense up, to feel frustrated, doubt sets in, confidence disappears. It makes the difference.

During his press conference after his loss at the Australian Open (in the round of 16, Monday January 23, editor’s note), Caroline Garcia herself admitted not having a good handle on her feelings. Yet she has the tennis to win a Grand Slam. All of this is working. It is still necessary that the players choose the right people to accompany them. This question is not new. Yannick Noah already had a mental trainer in addition to valuable support from Arthur Ashe, who really helped him become aware of the issues.

We have often spoken of the “golden generation” in French tennis, but none has converted hopes. Do we tend to see ourselves as “too handsome” in France?

pH: I think that we have above all tended to be too severe with this generation of players who are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils or Gilles Simon. In twenty years, or 80 Grand Slam tournaments, more than three quarters have been won by three men: Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. The French arrived at the peak of their career at a time when the unbeatable dominated. Same for women with Serena Williams. Which did not prevent Marion Bartoli, or before her Amélie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, from winning.

I believe that the French public loved this generation enormously, to the point of being too demanding. In 2014, when France lost the Davis Cup against Switzerland, the players were taken down and the media and popular judgment was really harsh. It is quickly forgotten that they lost to Roger Federer, who was then world number two, and Stanislas Wawrinka, who was number four. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

When France lost the Football World Cup against Argentina, the players were welcomed as heroes, but the tennis players weren’t. It’s a bit hard.

A country coeven Spain has fewer licensees than France. Still, the Spaniards have won more than 20 Grand Slam titles. Is the French formation failing?

pH: At the start, we had a lot of academies in France with a large pool of players who combined studies, training, medical follow-up, and who went to competition every week. But for obscure political reasons, this completely crumbled in the 2000s.

However, destroying a well-functioning system is much faster than rebuilding one. Today, apart from Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) and some academies in the south of France, it is complicated for some parents to offer their children who dream of becoming champions adequate training, close to home.

You mention Spain. Among our neighbours, the mental contribution we were talking about earlier is done via former great players who participate fully in the emergence of new talents. Current world number one Carlos Alcaraz plays under former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. This transmission must also exist in France.

It’s a paradox because tennis is an individual sport, but I’m convinced that the victory of a French player in the Grand Slam will go through collective cohesion.



Violence in the stadiums: “The implementation of a supporter card is an aberration”

The cross : How deeply rooted does the culture of hooliganism seem to you in France?

The culture of hooliganism has been active in France for four decades. However, a distinction must be made between hooligans (radical supporters who seek confrontation with their counterparts) and deviant acts of various kinds (smoke bombs, intrusion on the playing area, even brawls) which are not the act of strictly speaking hooligans but rather ultras. The latter are distinguished from hooligans, because violence is not at the center of their practices, they are there to support and actively defend their club but are sometimes involved in unrest.

Finally, compared to Germany, the Netherlands, even England, France has fewer hooligans. Nevertheless, despite a fairly low number, a new generation of hooligans is active and has adopted new methods. They now draw inspiration from their Eastern European counterparts, who transformed hooliganism from the start of the 21st century. To avoid the police, they most often confront each other far from the stadiums, during meetings where the number of fighters is determined. They are combat sports enthusiasts who train and then measure themselves during these confrontations. The incidents caused by Russian hooligans during Euro 2016 gave new impetus to these methods.

With Alain Bauer’s report on confrontations between supporters, do you think the Professional Football League (LFP) has finally tackled the issue of violence head-on?

It is a facade solution. This gentleman has no knowledge in the matter while there are experts and structures such as the National Supporterism Authority, as well as the parliamentary report of the joint fact-finding mission on the regime of stadium bans and supporterism of May 2020, coordinated by MPs Marie-George Buffet and Sacha Houlié. This quality work analyzes the failures of the all-repressive policy and suggests relevant recommendations.

In Alain Bauer’s report, the ideas of introducing a supporter’s card or a nominative ticket office are aberrations which do not work in the fight against violence, as shown by the Italian example, where there have been for more than ten years such practices. Because the problem is not to identify each spectator of a stadium, a waste of time, but the troublemakers and the hooligans. The difficulty is that these individuals are not always present in the stadiums and carry out most of their violent actions outside the enclosures.

Finally, it is necessary to underline the bad management of the sports crowds and the errors made by the public authorities and the sports clubs during the numerous incidents last season.

The dramatic event that took place in Indonesia on 1er last October, resulting in the death of 131 people, could it arrive in France?

It would be absurd to compare stadiums in Indonesia and France. The Indonesian police do not have real training to supervise sports crowds and restore calm. We saw it in footage of Kanjuruhan Stadium, where the north and south corners are overwhelmed by tear gas fired by security services. In addition, crowd evacuation conditions are not planned, with narrow stairs and far too small doors. Finally, the Indonesian enclosure was overcapacity, with at least 5,000 too many spectators in the stands.

However, the catastrophic organization of the Champions League final in Paris on May 28, 2022 should make us think. That day, Liverpool supporters could have died in the bottleneck put in place at the level of ticket verification. Fortunately, their calm in a chaotic situation prevented the worst.



Basketball: France outclasses Poland and secures a place in the Euro final

A total demonstration: the French basketball players, intractable in defense, left only crumbs to Poland (95-54) Friday September 16 in Berlin and are only one step away from the gold medal at the Eurobasket-2022. Nine years after their first and only international title, in 2013, here are Vincent Collet’s men one step away from a second coronation on Sunday (8:30 p.m.). But undoubtedly the highest to the extent of their journey.

They will have to step over Germany or Spain who are fighting for the other place in the final on Friday evening. The result of this half will therefore offer either a shock against a Nationalmannschaft transcended in its capital and superior to the Blues in the group stage (76-63), or a classic of European basketball against the rival Roja, so often assassin of tricolor dreams.

A quickly imposed gap

After two extensions torn thanks to two miracles in the round of 16 against Turkey and in the quarter-final against Italy, this time, the Olympic vice-champions never trembled, led by their interior Guerschon Yabusele, author of his record of points in selection (22).

Poland, clumsy (32% success in total) and muzzled, was already relegated to 16 points at halftime (34-18). No team had conceded so few in half a Euro match since Czechoslovakia in 1946 (12 points against Hungary).

Evan Fournier’s band (10 points) followed in the wake of his triple best NBA defender (2018, 2019 and 2021), Rudy Gobert (6 points and 6 rebounds), who collected blocks in the second quarter. (3). The gap quickly widened, the executives were even able to rest since only one player spent more than 20 minutes on the floor.

A flawless defense

The weaknesses, in particular the loss of balls (7 in the first round), remain there but “you have to live with”had resigned coach Vincent Collet. “We don’t have all the qualities but in any case, we don’t give up”, he positively. His players have faults but a defense.

A help of fate too. They were expecting Nikola Jokic’s Serbia in the quarter, they had Italy. They were expecting Slovenia from Luka Doncic in half, they had Poland. And the Olympic vice-champions did not miss this “great opportunity”according to Vincent Collet, to go to the final.

It is thus, one does not choose his adversary, and especially not the team of France. When the Blues could have thrown away their last two group matches to avoid a perilous journey on paper, they did not. Fate rewarded them. “We are not playing an unplayable team”recapitulated with modesty Vincent Collet.

“We have never defended like tonight since the start of the tournament, they couldn’t attack. We had a lot of success in the second half.”analyzed on the W9 channel the coach after the meeting.

Third European final

Admittedly, the unexpected Polish guests brought down the Slovenian phenomenon Luka Doncic, defending champion, but this feat marked their first irruption in the last four for 51 years. When French basketball players have only missed it once in five editions since 2011.

This third European Championship final in eleven years (out of four in total) says something about the current reservoir of French basketball, still at the top without being complete. Synonymous with the seventh medal in thirteen years of Vincent Collet’s mandate, this final also says a lot about the Normand’s record.

Neither the routine nor the unglamorous course should minimize the moment. And if it is necessary to underline the circumstances, do not forget the opposites: the two major players and creators who remained at rest, Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo.



Euro 2022: how England became a stronghold of women’s football

Whatever the outcome of the first semi-final between England and Sweden, this Tuesday July 26 (9 p.m.) in Sheffield (United Kingdom), the Women’s Football Euro organized this year on English lawns will mark certainly a victory for the host country. From its first matches spent to crush Norway (8-0) or Northern Ireland (5-0), until a possible final in the mythical enclosure of Wembley (90,000 seats), Sunday July 31, the “Lionesses” have always sold out at this European Championship.

A sign that in the country where modern football was born, supporters only ask to live to the rhythm of the round ball, whether it is led on the field by a man or a woman. Never deprived of emotion by the first, in club as in selection, where the players had reached the final of the last men’s Euro a year ago, the fans have long been chomping at the bit when it comes to women’s football.

The fault, in part, of the Football Association (FA), the English football federation, which prohibited women from practicing this sport considered dangerous for their health, from the 1920s until the 1970s. And despite a first Women’s Euro at low resonance organized on English soil in the summer of 2005, the discipline is left in the lurch by the institutions, which regard it above all as an adjustment variable when concluding budgets. Already alerted by the good results of its selection at the 2015 World Cup, finished in third place, the federation changes foot when the award of Euro 2021 looms (finally postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) , which she will pocket.

Major reform of the national championship

A major reform was launched five years ago, “which mainly concerns the development of Women’s Super League (WSL), the English national championship, notes sports economist Luc Arrondel, a specialist in women’s football. A championship had been present since the 1990s and had become a little more structured in a semi-professional way from 2011, but it was disputed in the summer period, therefore with very little visibility. » The 2017 growth plan begins the process of professionalisation: independent governance of women’s football is established at the FA and the twelve clubs which are granted a professional license must pay their players at least sixteen hours a week and acquire of a women’s section for their training centre.

The vast majority of clubs rely on the facilities of their men’s section, which most often play in the Premier League, the English first division, although the women have their own stadium. “We have two assistants, a mental coach (…), two physiotherapists, a masseur, a doctor. The staffs are a little wider (just in France) and then, in terms of infrastructure, we are in a huge center. We have three gyms, an indoor synthetic pitch. It’s England, what! », recently enthused French international Kenza Dali, today at Everton after moving to Londoners West Ham, quoted by Agence France-Presse.

The reform also concerned the very form of the championship, where the number of clubs relegated to the lower level at the end of the season was reduced. “The WSL is more closed, which has brought more stability for the clubs and strengthened their competitiveness”, notes Luc Arrondel, especially, he specifies, that “The players of the English national team receive a significant income to remain playing in the English championship” and that foreign players have had more difficulty settling in the United Kingdom since Brexit, thus favoring the emergence of young English talent.

Growing attendance, flooding sponsors

While the level of play has logically progressed, crowds have followed in the stadiums, filled on average with a few thousand supporters before the start of the health crisis. A push that prompted the influx of sponsors and the arrival for three years of broadcasters such as the Sky Sports channel and the BBC, for the record sum of 8.1 million euros since the start of the 2021 school year, three times higher than the rights television stations of the French first division. “Contrary to what is usually practiced, this media coverage and these cash inflows are the consequence of an almost political reform of English football”, emphasizes Luc Arrondel.

With the European Championship, English football intends to strengthen its self-sufficiency for the coming seasons. Our objective is twofold: to organize a record tournament and leave a tangible legacy to develop women’s football.”advanced ahead of the event Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at the English federation, in remarks taken up by the British daily The Guardian. The Euro, like every major competition, could in particular promote an additional jump in vocations, and would make it possible to retain the public across the Channel for good. The condition for the progress of English women’s football to be reflected next season at club level on the European scene, still in difficulty on their side against their French, Spanish or German neighbors.



Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

In football tournaments, this match would be called a consoling one. In other words, a meeting for butter organized so that everyone goes home happy with a lot. This semi-final of the League of Nations between France and Belgium, Thursday, October 7, looks like a stopgap for two major nations of European football, disappointed by their journey during the last Euro. France, the reigning world champion, was taken out of this tournament in the round of 16 by Switzerland. Belgium, third in the 2018 Russian World Cup, only made one more lap, eliminated in the quarter by the future Italian winner.

→ READ. Euro 2021: the Blues fall from the top

Created in 2018 to replace the tunnels of friendly matches without sporting stakes or big interest for televisions and sponsors, this second edition of the League of Nations is the perfect opportunity for Didier Deschamps’ men to redeem themselves. “We must not minimize this competition (…). This will not erase what happened, the Euro is behind us (…) there is a title at stake, we have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in the world ”, he explained Monday 4 at a press conference.

Worrying performances after the Euro

Since this disastrous last quarter of an hour of the Euro against Switzerland, when the Blues were caught in the score before losing on penalties in overtime, the group had lost ground. The worrying draws against Bosnia and Ukraine in early September in qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup had hit the nail on the head. Fortunately, the Benzema-Griezmann festival, a few days later against Finland (2-0), had put things in place and incidentally, almost qualified the Blues for Qatar. While bringing to light the puzzle of the attack.

Two, without Kylian Mbappé (injured), the Blues had found their way to the goal thanks to an Antoine Griezmann flourished in a role of leader. What will happen to three with Mbappé, against Belgium, in the ineffective configuration of the Euro? If Benzema and Griezmann seem indisputable in the device of the boss of the Blues, he sent the young Parisian a clear message during the show Telefoot, Sunday October 3. “The altruistic and collective Mbappé against Manchester City is the one I want to see”, he asserted. In other words, that his star player finds the spirit that allowed Paris SG to overthrow the champion of England in the Champions League, everything will be fine. If he plays personal and gets annoyed with his teammates like lately in a club, beware …

→ CHRONICLE. Euro 2021, the lost illusions

Station also behind, because the offensive festival against Finland (2-0) should not forget that the French deficiencies during the Euro were initially defensive. Until the Finnish good fortune, the Blues had taken the bad habit for months to concede the first goal of each game. During this last match, the boss had innovated by composing a defense to three, instead of the usual quartet. Which had worked pretty well.

A rivalry that sometimes got out of hand

Crucial for the blue crew of Captain Lloris, this meeting is also important for the Red Devils, who have revenge to take. Number one in the ranking of nations by virtue of great consistency in recent years (France is fourth), the band of Eden Hazard dreamed big until their missed European quarter-final against Italy. And still has not digested the semi-final lost in Russia against France, which had left the Belgians a bitter taste. “We lose against a team that is not better than us”, lamented goalkeeper Thibault Courtois. “I would rather lose with this Belgium than win with this France”, had assured Eden Hazard.

These words had sharpened the traditional rivalry between the two neighbors. If the Belgians have regularly won in recent years in a friendly match, they have lost the major official matches (5-0 at the 1984 euro, and 4-2 in the small final for the 3e place at the 1986 World Cup). “The rivalry has always been there, but it is healthy and sporty, tempers Didier Deschamps, but there is everything that happened outside, in the comments, there must have been excesses on both sides, because we are in the interpretations of hot words which have certainly taken on too much importance. “



Football: PSG snatched in the last four of the Champions League

And PSG reaches the last four of the Champions League. For the third time in its history (after 1995 and 2020), at the end of a return match lost despite common sense (0-1), this Tuesday, April 13, after a first leg won against all logic (3-2 ). Go figure it out. This is how football is made, which can be unpredictable, overwhelming, overwhelming.

→ READ. Football: PSG brings down the invincible Bayern Munich

The opponent of the evening does not have to grasp everything either. Bayern Munich had colossally dominated the first duel in Bavaria, bombarding the goal of the Parisians (31 shots), but mostly stumbling against the imperial goalkeeper Keylor Navas. German superiority was frightening even if poorly rewarded, and gave rise to fear of a PSG passed through the rolling mill as a revenge at the Parc des Princes. The specialists promised the worst suffering to PSG, did not want to know anything about the statistics guaranteeing it a 95% chance of qualifying, betting big on a Bayern for two years considered the best team in the world.

Bayern under the snuffer

Result? Quite the reverse. The German ogre had to eat everything, but throughout the first half was eaten on the lawn. The Parisians lined up the chances, Neymar hitting three times on the amounts of the German goal in less than ten minutes. And yet, at the break, it was Bayern who led in the score, on a goal from the former Parisian Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. As if the actors had exchanged the costumes of the first leg.

The second half would she finally prove to be in line with forecasts, with PSG forced to contain the incessant German assaults? Not quite yet. Bayern proved less oppressive than a week earlier, and the Parisians came close to placing a few fatal banderillas. In this second duel, their defeat is unfair, their qualification justified. Mastery was finally on their side, to everyone’s surprise. But this is perhaps the flagship asset of this PSG: illegible, spinning for his opponents. Bayern can bite their fingers. As well as it is, the machine has proved incapable of solving the Parisian enigma.

A message for Neymar and Mbappé

PSG sign for once a real feat. “We are also a great team, and we showed it this evening”, plastered a Neymar all smiles after the meeting. In fact, we do not erase Barcelona and Bayern in quick succession by taking advantage of a happy coincidence. The European campaign this year may silence the skeptics who were further undermining the club’s performance due to a run made last year under special circumstances.

Access to the last continental square above all preserves the future. The bright future at PSG also depends on the current negotiations on the extension of the contracts of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, which expire in June 2022. If with the Brazilian playing master the affair seems rather well underway, the suspense remains whole concerning the. tricolor striker. Then the president of the club Nasser Al-Khelaïfi hurried to answer a question on the subject Tuesday evening: ” They have no excuses to leave, because we have everything to win the Champions League here now ”. The message got through. There are still two games left to give it its full weight.



Rugby: Bernard Laporte placed in custody in the Altrad case

Ten days away from running for the head of the French rugby federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte was taken into custody Tuesday, September 22 in Paris, in the investigation into his links with the president of the Montpellier club, Mohed Altrad. His lawyer denounces a “Interference” in the campaign for the presidency of the FFR while Bernard Laporte castigates a “Destabilization” and one “Calendar unworthy of a democracy” in a letter to French clubs, distributed during his custody.

Preliminary investigation opened in 2017

Heard by the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE), Bernard Laporte is the subject of a preliminary investigation opened in 2017 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, then recipient of a report from the inspectors general of the sports ministry. He would have exerted pressure on the federation’s appeal committee to reduce in June 2017 the sanctions pronounced against Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), the club owned by the Altrad group, also sponsor of the France team.

August 13, 2017 Sunday Newspaper had also revealed the existence of a contract for 150,000 € of image services between BL Communication, a company managed by Laporte, and Altrad Investment Authority, a contract which the boss of French rugby had finally given up.

→ TO RE (READ). Rugby, what do we blame Bernard Laporte for?

“Interference with the judicial process”

Lawyer for Bernard Laporte, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi deplored that the hearing takes place ten days before the elections for the presidency of the rugby federation, where the former Secretary of State for Sports (2007-2009) is seeking a second term, facing its main opponent Florian Grill.

“Searches were carried out (at the headquarters of the FFR) in February 2018, one could imagine that he would be heard in September 2018, this would have left investigators seven months to analyze the documents. However, he was summoned two years later, in the middle of the campaign, while the prosecutor knew the electoral calendar of the federation since August 2019 ”, said the advice of Bernard Laporte.

“It is the blatant interference of a judicial process in an electoral process”, he added, claiming that “The prosecutor refused, without reason, to change the date”. A previous hearing, set earlier in the year, had been postponed “Because of the health restrictions of the Covid-19, otherwise he would have gone there”, added Me Versini-Campinchi. As part of the investigation, the three members of the federal appeal commission have already been heard in 2019.

The boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, just like the boss of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.