April 21, 2021

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Tennis: the boss of the French Federation plays all the balls

3 min read



He’s been distributing play from the baseline for two months now, going up to the net for a few carefully weighed media outings. At 63, Gilles Moretton, former Davis Cup player and creator of the Lyon tournament, put on the sneakers of president of the French Tennis Federation and plays fast and hard.

→ READ. In tennis, grand slams at all costs

After a rocky campaign, he took out outgoing Bernard Giudicelli on February 13 and set about placing his men and women. Rarely has a federation president taken the lead with such entrepreneurial energy. Retired in business after his retirement from sports in 1984, he quickly absorbed business methods, working for the equipment manufacturer Wilson, then the tobacco company Philip Morris. Before creating the Lyon tennis tournament, then leading for 13 years ASVEL, a famous basketball club from Villeurbanne bought since by Tony Parker.

A general manager recruited at Carrefour

This pro of sport and business, who conquered the federation with the hussar, decided to make vibrate these two strings of his CV. On the business side, he chose the key position of general manager a former hope of women’s tennis who had abandoned the courts for studies. After ENA and Essec, Amélie Oudéa-Castera entered the business world, at Axa then Carrefour, where she still held the post of director of digital commerce two months ago, at the age of 42.

On the sport side, Gilles Moretton has chosen to surround himself with big names, not always treated well by the previous team. National Technical Director (DTN) brutally dismissed in 2016 by Bernard Giudicelli (in conditions that had held high-level players against him), Arnaud Clément returned through the front door, becoming vice-president in charge of high level. Likewise, former DTN and Olympic bronze medalist Arnaud Di Pasquale has been appointed director for padel.

The padel to attract practitioners

This racket game, very popular in Spain, Argentina and the United States, has been in the bosom of the Tennis Federation since 2014. In the face of the aging of its licensees and the capping of its recruitment, the old lady of the door d’Auteuil wants to rely on it to appeal to a less technical audience that is more family-friendly. “In padel, you can have fun from day one, unlike tennis which requires years of learning”, explained Gilles Moretton Monday, March 29, during a press conference inducting Arnaud Di Pasquale in his functions.

But President Moretton also knows that the future of his sport depends on a return to a form of popular seduction. Coming out of chic salons in the 1980s and 1990s, with the Borg, Connors and Noah generation a little later, tennis had succeeded in seducing young boys and girls from the middle or working classes, such as Gaël Monfils or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. But these locomotives ran out of steam and the tennis machine struggled to regain steam.

Call to Yannick Noah

Hence an astonishing appeal for help launched to Yannick Noah. “Yannick was an extraordinary player, he was the favorite character of the French… He can give a lot more. Our desire is to bring tennis back to the image it had in the period when we played, to bring it to the streets. This is what he does with the association Fête le mur (association created by Noah allowing children from priority neighborhoods to play tennis) “, said Gilles Moretton Thursday 1er April, in an interview with AFP.

Fourth president of the Federation, former player, after René Lacoste, Michel Bernard and Philippe Chatrier, he knows that, in the France of tennis, everything begins and ends at Roland-Garros. And in this part of the game, it is not he who decides, but the government and the health situation. “For now, we are in the race, the tournament is on the scheduled date (May 23-June 6)”, he said again, on the eve of Emmanuel Macron’s announcements.

For the record, the 2020 edition had been postponed to September, with a gauge reduced to a thousand spectators per day. This had resulted in a 50% shortfall for an event that brings in 90% of the Federation’s income.

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