Roland-Garros: why have the French not won since Yannick Noah? Cédric Pioline’s analysis

Gauthier Delomez / Photo credits: Ibrahim Ezzat / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP
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3:57 p.m., June 02, 2023

The 2023 edition of Roland-Garros unfortunately resembles the previous ones on the French side: in the singles tables, no tricolor representative, whether for men or women, has managed to climb to the third round of the Internationals of France. The last Tricolore in the running, Arthur Rinderknech, did not resist the American Taylor Fritz, seeded 9 and potential outsider.

A new underperformance for French tennis, as the organizers celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory of Yannick Noah, to date the last Frenchman to have won a Grand Slam for men.

French players “came close” to the title

How to explain this starving record at Roland-Garros for so long? For Cédric Pioline, former world number 5 and consultant for Europe 1, the tournament’s official radio station, this is above all “a very deep question” to which it is difficult to give a single answer. “There have been different players for 40 years who have approached. There was a finalist, Henri Leconte (in 1988), a certain number of semi-finalists of which I am one (in 1998)”, recalls the one who is reached the Grand Slam final twice, at the US Open in 1993 and at Wimbledon in 1997.

Cédric Pioline attests to this: winning a Major, and especially Roland-Garros, “is something very, very difficult. The club (of the winners) is very small, so there is no rational explanation, nor miracle solution”, he agrees with Europe 1. According to the former champion, winning a Grand Slam results “from a construction in the medium to long term, to manage to have this level for one day, to be able claim to lift a cup and in particular the Coupe des Mousquetaires”, the name of the trophy awarded to the winner of the men’s singles at Porte d’Auteuil.

“There is no a miraculous recipe”

Is the training of young players by the French Tennis Federation then responsible for this failure? Not really, answers Cédric Pioline. “The federation is doing tremendous groundwork with infrastructure to try to train. It’s true that we are in the trough of the wave, with a generation that has partially stopped (Tsonga, Simon) and who plays his last seasons (Monfils, Gasquet). There is a little hollow, so it makes us weird in France”, underlines the current director of the Paris-Bercy tournament, recalling that we were used to having at least one representative in the world top 10. Ugo Humbert, the first French player, is currently ranked… 40th at the ATP.

“It takes time” to train future champions, insists Cédric Pioline. “Go find out which player has the little extra thing that makes him have the ability to win a Grand Slam. There is no miracle recipe”, analyzes the double finalist in Major, who evokes the example from Switzerland: “You can say that Roger Federer comes from a small country, and he is one of the three players who have the most impressive record of all time in the history of the game. It is not necessarily linked that’s it (training)”. The only certainty for Cédric Pioline, “you have to work a lot, you have to be very hungry, and perhaps have a little bit of success”. It remains to be seen whether the new generation will have this “little extra thing” and the “success” that Yannick Noah had in 1983.

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