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  Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 17:49 GMT
The French method
Sebastien Grosjean and Arnaud Clement
Sebastien Grosjean and Arnaud Clement
BBC Sport Online's Mandeep Sanghera speaks exclusively to LTA performance director Patrice Hagelauer about the reasons behind France's tennis successes at the Australian Open.

The tricolore of France is waving proudly in the world of sport again and once more the success is a lesson in the benefits of a structured development programme.

Frenchmen Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean will meet in the semi-finals of the Australian Open and one of them will become the first man from their country in the final of the Grand Slam tournament.


There are less than 6,000 at under-18 level playing more than 20 matches which is far from enough. It is 10 times more in France
LTA Perfromance Director Patrice Hagelauer

Their success marks another inspiring chapter in France's sporting achievements following their footballing victories at World Cup 98 and Euro 2000.

The names of Grosjean and Clement may not be all that familiar - but for English tennis the progress of the two relative unknowns bodes well.

The Lawn Tennis Association's performance director Patrice Hagelauer was responsible for the implementation of the coaching programmes which have resulted in the pair's emergence.

"To tell you the truth, these two kids have been improving so quickly that I am not surprised," said Hagelauer, who coached Yannick Noah to his 1983 French Open victory.

"They are two different players - Sebastien Grosjean has always been a kind of magician.

  Hagelauer record
Helped Yannick Noah to French Open victory in 1983
Appointed FFT Director of Men's Tennis
Under his coaching, French players achieved 24 tour victories
Coached French Davis Cup team to final three times where they won twice
Appointed LTA Perfromance Director in March 1999

"He has unbelievable skill, all the shots in his racket and the mental strength.

"Clement also has good technique and is the quickest player on the tour.

"He is like Jimmy Connors in that he can reach any ball - a player will think they have hit a winner against him but he will get it."

It seems another enthralling contest in a high quality Australian Open awaits and, although Hagelauer reveals both have a laid-back attitude, Grosjean and Clement have a determined resolve under their calm exterior.

"What I like most is that they enjoy their tennis. Whether it is in a match or practice, they enjoy each second.

"What I am impressed with is that they are constantly improving in all aspects of their game. They are obsessed by improvement. I notice that is common to top players."

Patrice Hagelauer
Hagelauer says there is a lack of competition in Britain

Hagelauer took over as the French Tennis Federation's (FFT) director of men's tennis from 1990.

It is the measures he put in place which have resulted in Grosjean and Clement coming to the fore.

Both players originate from Provence in the south of France and have come through junior, county and regional programmes.

At each stage they received tutoring from the FFT's selected coaches.

Hagelauer was appointed as the LTA's performance director in early 1999 and it is this type of structure that he is trying to set up in Britain.

"The tennis for junior, county and regional levels is so developed in France," explained Hagelauer.

"These guys have been through all of that and it is what we are trying to develop in the country."

Simple reason

He continued: "What is important is not only having the base but the programme to produce players."

It is these two points, in particular, which Hagelauer is trying to answer. But it is proving difficult.

"There are less than 6,000 at under-18 level playing more than 20 matches which is far from enough.

"It is 10 times more in France and the reason is simple; the clubs are open to juniors and they care.

"More than 60% of clubs in France run competitive junior programmes."

While Hagelauer does not want to take away from the leisure aspect of tennis, he believes there is too little emphasis on competition as youngsters progress.

In addition, the level of coaching and fact that there are 2,600 clubs in Britain compared to 10,000 in France are other areas Hagelauer is striving to improve.

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24 Jan 01 | Australian Open
24 Jan 01 | Australian Open
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