C'est La Vie: Prospects Look Dim For French Men at Roland Garros
Roland Garros Stadium (renamed to Court Phillipe Chatrier in 2001) was originally designed and built to be a fitting home to the fabled Four Musketeers, who were fresh off their inspiring Davis Cup victory over U.S.A in 1927, on American soil.
While today's French players lack the mystique and the history of "Toto" Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, and Rene Lacoste, they still managed quite an impressive showing at Roland Garros in 2008, sending 5 players to the round-of-16, and one, Gael Monfils, to the semi-finals.
But unless similar surprises occur this year, the French will be in worse shape. There are several reasons for that.
Monfils, the 2004 boys Junior champion and a semi-finalist last year, would be considered to have the best title chances for the French under normal circumstances. However, he has been out of action with knee tendinitis since the first round of Monte Carlo, and even if he is "feeling it" Roland Garros should prove to be an uphill battle for him.
Of the two French top 10 players, Gilles Simon has the game that is best suited for the slow playing clay of Roland Garros. But since the clay season began in Monte Carlo, he has only managed a paltry 4-4 record against mostly lower-ranked competition. His career record of 1-4 at the French Open can't be a confidence builder either.
The other top 10 French player has a game that is suited for anything other than clay. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has managed a 1-2 record on clay thus far this spring, and in his only French Open appearance in 2005, he was a straight set loser to Andy Roddick. Not much to go on there either.
Paul-Henri Matthieu, Michael Llodra, Jeremy Chardy, and Julian Benneteau were the other four French players to reach the round-of-16 at Roland Garros last year.
Benneteau, a one time quarter finalist (2006), seems to know the lay of the land in Paris, but he's 28 now, and only 8-12 on the year.
Llodra, now 29, has made it to the round-of-16 twice in nine tries - 2009 was his high water mark, and he's not getting any younger either.
Chardy, young and explosive, might be the best hope for a repeat of last year's success. He's had some positive results on clay this year (semi-final appearance on the Munich clay), and wins over Federico Gil, David Nalbandian, and Dimitry Turnsonov at Roland Garros last year show that he can rise to the occasion in front of the home crowd.
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