French renaissance takes U.S. Open by storm

NEW YORK (Reuters) - France has been crying out for its new breed of players to emulate the glory days of French tennis when their four musketeers dominated the game globally in the 1920s and 1930s.

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Between them, the quartet of Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste won 20 grand slams. But not since Cochet’s 1928 success has France enjoyed overall victory in the men’s singles at the U.S. Open.

Its latest breed of players have been dubbed by the French media as the “new musketeers” and have lived up to the moniker so far at Flushing Meadows

Frenchman accounted for a remarkable 12 of the 64 players that advanced to the second round and also took up six spots in the third round of the tournament - a record for the country in a grand slam.

Saturday was a mixed day for the French player with Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils both advancing to the fourth round where they will meet each other. But Arnaud Clement faltered in the fifth set against Mardy Fish and Paul-Henri Mathieu was blown off court by Roger Federer.

Michael Llodra and Gilles Simon have the chance to take the tally of Frenchmen in the last 16 to four on Sunday. Llodra has the better chance against Tommy Robredo while Simon has landed the unenviable task of facing number one seed Rafa Nadal.

According to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, the former world number one and multiple grand slam winner, the remaining French players do not quite have enough in their armoury to pull off a win at Flushing Meadows that would set off celebrations in New York’s famous French quarter

“It’s too big an ask,” the former world number one told Reuters. “For me, Roger and Rafa are too still too strong, too fit, too good.”

Despite her overall tournament prediction, Mauresmo did say the French public had been impressed by their countrymen’s run of form.

“To see so many French players in the second round and then third round is quite a surprise but I have no clue why it’s happened - there’s no big secret,” she said.

Mauresmo has helped the renaissance having coached Llodra since her retirement last year and is particularly pleased by the efforts of the world number 35, who pulled off a shock by defeating number seven seed Tomas Berdych in the first round.

Even with the possibility of four Frenchman making it to the fourth round, the chances of any of them emulating Cedric Pioline, who reached the final in New York in 1993, or Yannick Noah, the last French grand slam winner who won in 1983 at Roland Garros, are slim.

“I hope it’s possible but I don’t think so,” added Mauresmo.

Editing by Frank Pingue