Home hopes in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon looking dim at French Open

Tsonga, who turned 30 last month, is the last Frenchman to reach a grand slam tournament final, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open championship match.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who turned 30 last month, is the last Frenchman to reach a grand slam tournament final, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open championship match. Antonie Robertson/The National
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who turned 30 last month, is the last Frenchman to reach a grand slam tournament final, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open championship match. Antonie Robertson/The National

Paris // French hopes of a first male singles champion at the French Open since Yannick Noah in 1983 are looking slim this year because of injuries and loss of form.

The so-called “golden generation” of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon all have their worries and the gap between them and the top quartet has seldom been wider.

Simon is the French No 1, ranked 13th in the world, but he is struggling with a back injury that forced him to pull out of the Nice tournament this week.

Besides he has never gone far at Roland Garros, unlike Tsonga and Monfils, the two players ranked immediately behind him in the world.

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Tsonga, who turned 30 last month, is the last Frenchman to reach a grand slam tournament final, losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open championship match. He also reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2013 and has some big wins under his belt on clay.

But all has not been well with Tsonga and the French public since the end of last year when a nagging wrist injury forced him to pull out of the Davis Cup final against Switzerland in Lille after losing the opening rubber against Stan Wawrinka.

He subsequently played in a series of lucrative exhibition matches in Asia, which drew a barrage of criticism and left him feeling bitter.

“Since (the Davis Cup) I have had the time to take a look at what people think of me – in the street when we pass each other,” he said. “On the whole I think they are proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I think it will be the same at Roland Garros.”

Monfils has also a semi-final appearance at the French Open in 2008 when he lost to Roger Federer and he made the last eight last year before losing in five sets to Andy Murray.

As ever, the 28-year-old Parisian is blowing hot and cold, crushing Federer in straight sets in the Davis Cup final on clay last November and beating him again at Monte Carlo in April en route to the semi-finals before missing Rome because of injury and flopping in Madrid. “Hopefully I can pass the first round (in Paris) and just improve my game day after day,” he said

As for Gasquet, a tournament win on clay in Portugal this month was promising, but his fragile physical state means he will struggle to hold out for two weeks of best-of-five set games.

The portents are that the long wait for a French male champion at Roland Garros looks likely to extend into a 33rd year.

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Published: May 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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