Léolia Jeanjean, Diane Parry, Hugo Gaston, Corentin Moutet: These players gave the French hope in the first rounds of the Roland-Garros tennis tournament. A short-lived hope since week two of the Grand Slam tournament kicks off without them on Monday, May 30. Indeed, as in 2021, at the age of five in the third round, no Frenchman made it to the last 16.
>> Roland Garros: Follow the live broadcast of Monday 30 May matches
The next generation in French tennis seems slow. Should we be hopeless or can we be optimistic? “It’s always too complicated” John McEnroe to become a tennis champion. The retired American champion, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, believes it’s necessary. “have a bigger pool of future champions”.
franceinfo: When you see the state of French tennis, where one generation is retiring and another is slowly emerging, are you worried about our country?
John McEnroe: You come from a time when there were four guys in the top 10: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils and Gilles Simon. I thought one of them would win a few majors, but I don’t think anyone noticed how great they were. Right now, I don’t see much. I love watching Hugo Gaston and Corentin Moutet play because they’re little guys playing against the big guys. They have to try drop shots. It fits my mentality. I think it is not the easiest time for tennis in France. A few days ago I was with an old friend who won here in 1983. [Yannick Noah]. There is quite a bit in the United States because it’s been almost two decades since a male actor won. I know the French love tennis, they are very passionate. So it must be difficult to live together.
Why is it so hard to become a champion?
This is always very difficult to do. It doesn’t end with saying: here we go, let’s bring someone from the island of Mallorca. [dont est originaire de Rafael Nadal] whereas when I was playing it was a resort. In my time, if you played against someone from Switzerland [le pays de Roger Federer], it was a good draw. Frankly, the game is faster than ever before. This means you have to get better athletically as things go faster. But at the end of the day, when you reach a certain level, you need a combination of several things. If it was that easy, more people would know how to do it. The key right now is to have more kids playing tennis to have a bigger pool of future champions. The situation is the same in the United States. We need more tennis programs in schools. Currently, the best athletes in my country play American football and basketball.
You are the president of an academy in New York. Why this personal investment?
Growing up, I feel like I was given opportunities that most kids didn’t have to do. I want to create a thriving tennis environment in New York because the last player I remember from that city is my brother. There are very few players in this town and a lot of inner city kids who can’t afford to play. I’ve been doing this for a long time and my greatest happiness will be that some of the boys and girls who are with me win the US Open, Roland-Garros or Wimbledon. I have been given a lot. So I want to try to give others a chance.
As in the United States, one of the obstacles to becoming a champion in France is definitely money. Like the other six academies around the world, the BNP Paribas bank you are associated with also offers scholarships to these young players. Is the financial aspect that important?
Unfortunately yes. Ever since I started playing it, I quickly realized it was too expensive for most people, and it just got worse. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have the support of BNP Paribas and other partners. Without it, it would be very difficult to give these kids a chance. A young player must be able to train and travel. Financial support is more important than ever in the United States, France and elsewhere.