Ivan Ljubicic, the former Croatian coach of Roger Federer, joined the French Tennis Federation (FFT) last December to help French players find the highest level, which he translates on Tuesday as “winning great Slams”. The next edition of Roland-Garros (May 28-June 11) will mark the 40th anniversary of Yannick Noah’s victory on Parisian clay in 1983.
Since then, no Frenchman has won a Grand Slam tournament for men, although Henri Leconte (Roland-Garros 1988), Cédric Pioline (US Open 1993 and Wimbledon 1997), Arnaud Clément (Australian Open 2001) and Jo -Wilfried Tsonga (Australian Open 2008) reached the final. Among women, Mary Pierce (Australian Open 1995 and Roland-Garros 2000), Amélie Mauresmo (Australian Open and Wimbledon 2006) and Marion Bartoli (Wimbledon 2013) have won Majors since the advent of Noah.
“We will work a lot”
Journalist : What should be the place of French players on the circuit?
Ivan Ljubicic : “We can’t be happy with the level of the best French players at ATP, but we’re going to work a lot to change that. I also hope to do a lot with the girls because Caroline (Garcia) is there, we’re happy that ‘she’s there, but we have to do something to see even more high-level players. I played at a high level (he rose to 3rd in the world in 2006, editor’s note), I coached very high level (he supported Roger Federer from 2016 until the Swiss’s retirement in 2022, editor’s note) and I’m ambitious. I’m here to help win Grand Slams and Olympic medals. That’s my mentality. I know that I can’t make a difference tomorrow, at Roland-Garros 2023, but I hope to be there for a long time. I’m used to seeing tennis at a very high level.”
Journalist : Do you see Luca Van Assche and Arthur Fils as possible candidates for these titles?
Ivan Ljubicic : “With these two, we have the potential. They are completely different, in character, as people. But I think that we may have players there who we can hope to see succeed, not from 2023 but in the future, something big. Why not a Grand Slam. It’s not impossible. Roger, Rafa and Novak have taken the Grand Slam titles in the last 25 or 30 years, but it is not impossible to win. You have to be motivated and ambitious to achieve it. If the objective is not to win a Grand Slam, we will not succeed. So for me, the objective must be there.”
Journalist : What have you done and seen since the beginning of your mission?
Ivan Ljubicic : “I traveled a lot, I saw tournaments. It is very important to see the players in tournaments. In training it is important, but above all you have to understand their mentalities in tournaments. So I saw players born in 2008, 2009, 2010, I spent time at Pole France in Poitiers too and, really, I love the atmosphere. There, I think the job is well done. We have to create a positive situation like that also for the generation that is 16, 17 or 18 years old. It will be a little more complicated but I think we can do a good job.”