BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC Sport
 You are in: Special Events: 2001: French Open  
Sport Front Page
-------------------
Football
Cricket
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Tennis
Golf
Motorsport
Boxing
Athletics
Other Sports
-------------------
Special Events
-------------------
Sports Talk
-------------------
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
-------------------
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
-------------------
Around The UK: 
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS

  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
The French revolution
Amelie Mauresmo in action
Amelie Mauresmo is one of the favourites for Paris
BBC Sport Online examines the rise of French tennis.

When French players took to the court for their first-round matches in the Australian Open in January, it was the sort of situation the British tennis authorities have so far only been able to dream about.

While Britain could only boast Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in the men's tournament and Louise Latimer in the women's, there were an incredible 19 French men or women in the draws.

They had three seeds in each; Cedric Pioline, Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean in the men's and Mary Pierce, Amelie Mauresmo and Sandrine Testud in the women's.

This side of the Channel, we might hope and pray that Henman and Rusedski might meet in the latter stages of a Grand Slam but when Clement and Grosjean played each other in the semi-final at Melbourne it was more of a statistical probability.

Although the winner of that match, Clement, was outclassed by Andre Agassi in the final, it proved that the French have the strength in depth to challenge the Americans and the Spanish as the most powerful nations in the game.

Arnaud Clement plays a forehand
Success in Australia helped Arnaud Clement
It's even more of an achievement when you realise that the Australian Open is played on hard courts. The French are brought up on clay - the surface that is used at Roland Garros.

So it is logical to say that even lower-ranked players like Nicolas Escude and Fabrice Santoro will confidently expect good runs in Paris, especially with the home fans behind them.

Big-serving Pioline is never at his best on clay, but still got to the semi-final in 1998.

Grosjean, 22, and Clement, 23, have so far done little in Paris but after breaking through in Australia will be confident of making big strides on home soil.

On the women's side, Pierce won it last year, although she learned most of her tennis in the United States.

Mauresmo, Australian Open finalist two years ago, is long overdue a good run on a surface to which her game is suited.

Together with the wild cards handed out by the Roland Garros organisers to young French hopefuls, it means the home nation are going to have plenty of chances for glory this year.

The big question is why a nation of similar size to Britain does so much better. The answer lies with the grass-roots organisation of the game.


If we can double the numbers of players at the bottom level we can increase the number in the top 50 and top 10
Patrice Hagelauer

In France many more children play the game at a competitive level in schools and clubs.

So it was not for nothing that two years the British Lawn Tennis Association poached the man largely responsible for that in France, Patrice Hagelauer.

He is now Performance Director at the LTA with responsibility for bringing youngsters through.

He said: "If we can double the numbers of players at the bottom level we can increase the number in the top 50 and top 10.

"Right now we have 6,000 competitors aged under 18 playing more than 20 matches a year. That is clearly not enough. We need at least 12,000 to 15,000 of these players."

French Open site

Latest news

Perry in Paris

Clickable guides

French Open flashback

PHOTO GALLERIES

AUDIO/VIDEO

SPORTS TALK

OTHER TENNIS

BBC COVERAGE

INTERNET LINK
Links to more French Open stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more French Open stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales