PARIS (Reuters) - French federation president Bernard Giudicelli has hit out at the country’s male players after their disappointing run at Roland Garros, saying they lacked physical strength and grit.
No French man went past the fourth round at the French Open this year, with the country’s top-ranked player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga going out in the first round to unheralded Argentine Renzo Olivo.
“What the French men lacked to go further, it’s grit,” Giudicelli told French radio RMC.
“When a coach says that the player can spend eight hours on court when the temperature is 45 degrees Celsius and that he gets cramps in the fourth set, there’s a problem,” said Giudicelli, referring to Lucas Pouille who lost against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 3-6 5-7 6-2 6-1 in the third round.
“Enough talking. We need to work according to the norms of modern tennis. It means having physical abilities very early and also working on the mental.”
No French man has won a grand slam title since Yannick Noah lifted the French Open in 1983, something the so-called golden generation should have achieved, according to seven-time grand slam champion Mats Wilander.
“It is disappointing, for sure,” Wilander, who is at Roland Garros commentating for Europsport, told Reuters last week.
“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.”
The women have, however, fared better in Paris this year. Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia were both defeated in the quarter-finals — the first time France had two women in the last eight since 1994.
“If the women have succeeded, it’s not by chance. They took another path because we discussed, we questioned some things,” said Giudicelli.
Mary Pierce, the last French player to win the French Open in 2000, said the men should not be judged too harshly.
“I don’t really agree with what he said,” Pierce told Reuters, referring to Giudicelli’s comments. “We have a lot of great French men tennis players but unfortunately they didn’t do so well this year.
“Tsonga lost early, but maybe with the new baby perhaps he’s not had the chance to train as much as he wanted. They will be back next year. But we should focus on the positives and celebrate the achievements of Kristina and Caroline.”
(This version of story has been refiled to fix typo)
Reporting by Julien Pretot, additional reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Gareth Jones