French tennis has achieved a new milestone at this week’s Rolex Paris Masters, but it is one that nobody wanted.
At the start of this week 10 home players were entered into the draw, but after three days of competition they have all crashed out. The first time in history that no French player has reached the third round of the tournament since it was expanded to a 64-player draw back in 1990. The outcome occurs during what has been a difficult season for the men’s elite in the country.
“It is an awful season for most of the French players, but we are certainly capable of winning against the Croatians, even if they’re great players.” Richard Gasquet commented about the issue ahead of France’s Davis Cup clash with Croatia next month.
The highest ranked Frenchman is currently tour veteran Gasquet at 28th. Meaning for the first time since 1996 there will be no French player will be in the season-ending top 20. The outcome has lead to players being placed under scrutiny in a country with high expectations that hosts one of the four grand slam tournaments. The last home player to reach the final at Roland Garros was Henri Leconte in 1988. For the women, it was Mary Pierce in 2005.
“It’s harder than before because it’s tougher. There’s a lot of good players. We still have good French players who can play well.” Said world No.31 Gilles Simon.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve lost forever. I would be more pessimistic for the four or five seasons to come rather.
“But there’s still a lot of good players. We have a draw with 48 players here (at the Paris Masters). We had ten French players in the draw. It’s not that bad. Of course, the level is not as high as we want it, but still we’re here.”
Simon is the only player from his country to win multiple singles titles on the ATP Tour this season. Triumphing at the Maharashtra Open in January and the Moselle Open in September. Furthermore, three of his compatriots has also lifted ATP trophies in 2018. Gasquet (Rosmalen), Gael Monfils (Qatar) and Lucas Pouille (Open Sud de France).
At present, France has 10 players ranked in the top 100, but eight of those are over the age of 27. The two exceptions are Pouille (24) and Ugo Humbert (20).
“There are players that are older than us on the circuit that have better ranks who still win big tournaments. So it’s doable on the years to come.” Simon Commented on a possible French resurgence in 2019.
“I don’t think that Richard (Gasquet) is playing less well than before. I know that he can actually win quite well. He’s missing two good opportunities in the French Open and in Wimbledon to have very good outcomes. When I saw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday, I’m not concerned either.”
Regardless of their difficulties, team France could still end 2018 on a high if they prevail in the Davis Cup final. They will play Croatia in Lille between November 23-25, a country they lost to in the semi-finals of the competition two years ago. Croatian tennis currently boasts two players in the world’s top 20 with Marin Cilic and Borna Coric.
List of French players in the top 100 (men only)
Note: rankings based on week commencing 29/10/2018
‘Another Level’ – Nick Kyrgios Praises Rising Star Jannik Sinner
This week the world No.11 is bidding to win his third consecutive indoor tournament.
Jannik Sinner’s recent dominance when it comes to playing tennis indoors hasn’t gone unnoticed with one of his peers praising him on social media.
The 20-year-old defeated Reilly Opelka in the second round of the Vienna Open on Wednesday in what is his fifth consecutive win on the Tour. Impressively Sinner has now won 18 straight sets on indoor hardcourts. Last Sunday he claimed his fifth Tour title at the European Open to become the youngest ATP player to win that many ATP trophies since Novak Djokovic back in 2007.
Sinner’s achievements were highlighted on social media by journalist Ben Rothenberg who posted a tweet of the 18 sets he has won. That caught the attention of former top 20 player and two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios who paid his own tribute to the Italian.
“He is another level. That’s for sure, played him in Washington doubles. Never played someone who hit the ball as hard,” he wrote.
The two are yet to play against each other in singles competition. In Washington Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe lost 4-6, 4-6, to Sinner and his partner Sebastian Korda.
Sinner’s latest win in Vienna has boosted his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin next month. He has risen back up the standings to 10th in the race after overtaking Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie. Norrie will play his second round match on Thursday.
“I think I had not so many chances and I used them. I think that was the key today,” Sinner said of his latest win against Opelka. “I served well. My service holds were always quite fast and good. I felt well on the baseline, so I knew when I went in a rally that somehow I was going to win the point. But it’s never easy playing against him. You never have rhythm.”
Awaiting Sinner in the next round will be Austria’s Denis Novak who is currently ranked 116th in the world and is yet to beat a top 10 player in his career.
Denis Shapovalov Battles Back To Reach The Quarterfinals In St Petersburg
The Canadian got off to a slow start in his first match but was able to recover nicely for a big three-set win.
Second seed Denis Shapovalov needed to go the distance at the St Petersburg Open to beat his Spanish opponent Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and 49 minutes.
The Toronto native didn’t have the best start to the match but was able to recover and pull off a comeback to take the win. Serving a total of 11 aces to reach the quarterfinals.
” It’s very tough to play Pablo (Andujar) first round of a tournament, he’s a great player and it was a tough start to the match,” said Shapovalov. “I didn’t feel so great but I just told myself to keep going because obviously there is still a lot of tennis to be played and I wanted to turn it around in the second set and I did a really good job.”
It was the Spaniard who got off to a better start, earning a breakpoint in the first game of the match before grabbing the early break and he was able to consolidate it. At 2-0, Andujar had two chances to go up a double break but the Canadian saved both and it stayed on serve until 4-2 when the world number 92 was able to earn another breakpoint. This time converted for the double break lead and served out the first set.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-1 when Shapovalov broke to love and that one break of serve was enough for him to serve it out and send the match into a decider.
The Canadian continued pushing as his level improved. In the first game of the final set, he broke the Spaniard with a perfectly timed cross-court winner to take an early 1-0 lead. After consolidating the break he was hungry for more and broke Andujar’s serve once again to go up a double break. Shapovalov closed the match out with a bagel set.
During his on-court interview, Shapovalov was asked how happy he was back to be in St Peterburg and he mentioned the amazing memories he had playing in the event last year.
” It always feels great to be back and I remember last year playing Andrey (Rublev) in the semifinals. I was one set up and I lost this match but I am happy to be here due to the fact I always get great support from the fans here”. He said.
Shapovalov will face Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals after the German upset seventh seed Alexander Bublik in straight sets (6-4, 6-3).
Former World No.8 And Grand Slam Champion Jurgen Melzer Retires
Melzer ends a career which has seen him crack the world’s top 10 in both singles and doubles.
After more than two decades on the Tour, Jurgen Melzer has played his final match after bowing out of the Vienna Open on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old confirmed earlier this year that he would end his career at his home tournament. Teaming up with Alexander Zverev in the doubles, the duo lost in straight sets to third seeds Filip Polášek and John Peers. Melzer is a two-time champion in Vienna after winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He later went on to win the doubles title in 2014.
“I was a bit afraid that not so many would come after all. Thank you very much, it was a huge honour for me to leave here,” Melzer said during his on-court interview.
“He (Zverev) didn’t hesitate five seconds to play here with me, that is not a matter of course when you’re at number four and you’re close to the Masters. Unfortunately, it was a short undertaking, but thank you.” He added.
Melzer first rose to prominence as a junior when he became the first Austrian to win the Wimbledon boys’ title back in 1999. He would go on to play in a total of 53 Grand Slam main draws during his professional career with his best run being to the semi-finals of the 2010 French Open. On the ATP Tour he claimed five titles with his most prestigious being at an ATP 500 event in Memphis during the 2012 season.
Against top 10 opposition, Melzer has beaten every member of the Big Three at least once. The most notable being against Novak Djokovic where he battled back from two sets down to stun the Serbian at the 2010 French Open. Overall, he recorded 13 wins over top 10 players during his career.
“My career started here (in Vienna) on an international level almost 22 years ago, in 1999 here in the town hall, where for the first time I was allowed to dream of really going the way as a professional tennis player. 22 years later and I would have signed everything, what I have achieved. It was an unbelievable journey that ends today. That I couldn’t have dreamed of.”
It wasn’t just in the singles where Melzer enjoyed success on the Tour. As a double player he achieved a ranking high of sixth and won two men’s Grand Slam titles with Philipp Petzschner, as well claiming the 2011 Wimbledon mixed doubles trophy with his ex-wife Iveta Benešová. More recently, Melzer reached the final of the 2020 ATP Finals alongside Édouard Roger-Vasselin. That was to be the last Tour final of his career.
“Of course you still hope to be at the top, but at some point you will be realistic enough to be able to assess that it will not be enough. It was an unbelievable journey that was a lot of fun. It is over, but it is also good that way.” He concluded.
Whilst his time on the Tour has come to an end, Melzer will remain involved in tennis. He is currently working as the Sports director of the Austrian Tennis Federation (OTV). A role he has held since January.
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