Gael Monfils, last chance of a homeland in distress

Gael Monfils in his second round against Romanian Marius Copil on 29 August.
Gael Monfils in his second round against Romanian Marius Copil on 29 August. Jerry Lai / USA TODAY Sports

"Is there anyone to save French tennis? ", We ask a year ago, when no French player, men and women confused, had qualified in the second week of the US Open. The words "marasme", "déconvenue" or "fiasco" then bloomed everywhere in the French media.

What qualifiers to use twelve months later to describe a (bad) event that force almost expected with as much suspense as the fall of the leaves in the fall: the disappointment of the tricolor squad in Grand Slam, major appointments of the season ? This year, in New York, there was only one representative at the stage of the third round, Gael Monfils – who faces Monday, September 2, the Spanish Pablo Andujar round of 16 – the worst record of the Blues since 2003 .

With fourteen players on the starting line, we approach the disaster. Even more when we know that France arrived at Flushing Meadows with the highest quota in the Top 100: 11 players (12 if we include Antoine Hoang, who slipped this week of the 98e rank at 104e), ahead of Spain (10) and the United States (7).

Tsonga "plays well", Pair makes the tour of the nightclubs

The underperformance of each other – and their reactions – can sometimes be disgraceful, like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (65).e), who led two sets to zero against American Tennys Sandgren (72e) before taking the door in the first round. "I'm disappointed, sad because I had a good game anyway, Tsonga analyzed. I do not have much to blame myself even if there are always things that can be done a little better. But I'm really disappointed because I play tennis well and would have liked to win this game. " QED.

Attitude even more overwhelming, that of Benoit Paire. In the second round, he was two sets ahead and even three match points on his 5-3 serve. But, facing Aljaz Bedene (80e), the Avignon (26e) has obviously preferred to recite the definition of the verb "vendanger". A 5-1 ball again ruined in the final set, he finally lost 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-5, 7-6.

Released from the court without shaking the hand of the Slovenian, whom he accuses of having insulted him during a change of side, Paire left New York head down, he who remained on two knockout stages at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. But he has a very personal method to remedy it: "I'm going to cut well. I will do one or two weeks well "off", we will not see me on a tennis court, that's for sure. More in the nightclubs. "

Eliminated entry by Tunisian Ons Jabeur (7-6, 6-2), the number one French, Caroline Garcia, yet has the impression to see the end of the tunnel. And put it, on the method Coué: "It does not show, but since Cincinnati, it's a lot more positive for me. Even if this match proves nothing at all. We're going to say, "She's totally crazy!" But that's okay. It's going slowly in the right direction. "

As for Lucas Pouille, he showed off the court with a lucidity that missed him on the field, beaten in the second round by the British Daniel Evans (6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 ): " It was bad from the first to the last point, in all areas. "

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The next generation (Ugo Humbert, Corentin Moutet, Antoine Hoang and Fiona Ferro) seems to have been so far behind the players of the new generation (Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Naomi Osaka, Cori Gauff …) that the only tricolor luck is still in Gael Monfils, 33 years old this Sunday 1st September.

A boulevard for "la Monf '"?

New York has always succeeded in the French number one (13e in his career: semi-finalist in 2016 (defeat to Novak Djokovic), quarter-finalist in 2014 (defeated by Roger Federer) and in 2010 (defeat against Djokovic). This year, he has enjoyed an open course since his quarter table has depopulated at the level of seeded. The top three members of the Top 10 were beaten: Dominic Thiem (4e), Stefanos Tsisipas (8e) and Roberto Bautista Agut (10e). With, as a bonus, the defeats of Felix Auger-Aliassime (18e) and Kyle Edmund (30e).

Monfils is already certain not to have to face a ranked player better than 25e before a possible semi-final. At 3e turn, the young Denis Shapovalov (33e), who has found his offensive tennis in recent weeks, nonetheless represented a threat. Faced with the French, he proved it again. Monfils finally came out after a spectacular fight in five sets (6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3). His eighth final will oppose him Monday to a neophyte at this level despite his 33 years: the Spaniard Pablo Andujar (70e), easy winner of Alexander Bublik (6-4, 6-3, 6-2).

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"When I am told that the painting is open, it is rare that I disappoints", he assured after his first round. After all, as Gilles Simon (who gave up in his second match against Andrey Rublev because of a neck injury) said this week at the microphone of RMC: "If we have a Frenchman in the semifinals, we will have forgotten that there was only one in the third round. " Monfils knows what remains to be done to save the honor of his country.


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