PARIS (Reuters) - France’s wait for a men’s singles champion at Roland Garros will stretch into a 35th year, and three-times champion Mats Wilander says their current crop of stars are running out of time.
Wilander was beaten in the final by France’s last champion, Yannick Noah, in 1983. The Swede also broke French hearts the last time a Frenchman reached the final, beating Henri Leconte in 1988.
“It is disappointing, for sure,” Wilander told Reuters at Roland Garros. “If you look at those guys, (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, (Richard) Gasquet, (Gael) Monfils... look at their rankings... for no-one to get to the quarter-finals is really quite disappointing.
“I think they have underperformed, really. And then who is coming next? Lucas Pouille, okay... but right now this kind of golden generation has not got much more time. This group is not going to be around forever.
“You would have expected them to have maybe won a grand slam by now.”
It is not only in Paris where the local men have suffered a barren run. In fact, since Noah’s triumph, no Frenchman has won a grand slam singles title.
Twelfth-seed Tsonga lost in the first round, 24th-seed Richard Gasquet retired injured in the third round to fellow Frenchman and 15th-seed Monfils, who lost in the fourth round to Stan Wawrinka.
“OK, well Stan, that is tough,” Wilander said of Monfils’ defeat. “But you have to beat these guys if you are going to do it.”
Wilander said he was surprised that none of the French players over the years had been able to harness the massive power of the Roland Garros crowd in the way Noah had done in ‘83.
“It knocked me off my feet,” Wilander said of the crowd back then. “It is a tough situation, having a crowd like that against you.
“But then again, it can be hard to have them in your corner.
“Sometimes it is not easy when people around you want more for you than you want yourself, It can be hard to stay in the present.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar