Roland-Garros – Playing a Frenchman in Paris, a certain idea of ​​hell?

Roland-Garros - Playing a Frenchman in Paris, a certain idea of ​​hell?

This is perhaps the big deal at the start of this fortnight. The public of Roland-Garros, more actor than it perhaps ever was, weighs on the debates. And if five French people managed to reach the third round, he is probably no stranger to it. To name just him, Gilles Simon would probably never have come out against Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round without the gentle nocturnal madness of Simonne-Mathieu. Facing a Frenchman or a Frenchwoman in Paris, Porte d’Auteuil in the spring or at Bercy in the fall, it is perhaps not the biggest sporting challenge there is, but it is the threat of spending a fairly uncomfortable.

Daniil Medvedev has not yet met a native this year at Roland. But the Russian, whose overall record against the Blues on the circuit is not far from catastrophic (including on Parisian clay, where he lost three times in the first round during his first three participations), n isn’t the worst placed to testify. During the last Rolex Paris Masters, he had to clog the hatches and ignore the context in the quarter-finals against Hugo Gaston.

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Don’t underestimate the impact

Playing against a Frenchman at Roland-Garros is one of the hardest things to do in tenniseven assured the world number 2 on Thursday. The first three times I lost at Roland-Garros, it was against the French. In fact, it was difficult. I can tell you that the public was not there to support me“But with experience and force of habit, Medvedev ended up getting used to it and almost enjoying it.”I would say that at the beginning, I didn’t like playing in France. But now I love it“Even if he is not necessarily in a hurry to cross paths with a Frenchman on his land.

Some sometimes underestimate the impact of the Parisian crowd on the destiny of a match. Before facing Alizé Cornet on Thursday evening in the second round, Jelena Ostapenko had even confided that the prospect of playing against a “hostile” crowd suited her very well: “I prefer when I have the public against me because it forces me to be more focused.” Certainly. But the Latvian, beaten in three sets on the Chatrier, left the court furious after covering her ears on the match point as if to show her disapproval.

Perhaps she should have gone back to the 2017 edition, that of her surprise consecration. That year, Garbine Muguruza, eliminated by Kristina Mladenovic in the round of 16, ended on the verge of tears. “They can be very toughhad judged the Spanish champion. They hiss easily. They irritate you, distract you. When the public is against you here, it can get very difficult.” And that was five years ago. Since then, Roland spectators have become more supportive than ever when one of their own is on the court.

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Where are the limits ? Have they been exceeded? Among those who have found themselves in the front row since the beginning of the week, opinions differ. Curiously (or not), the opinion often depends on… the nature of the result. Eliminated from the start of the super tie-break of the fifth set by Hugo Gaston, Alex De Minaur had little taste for the atmosphere in Suzanne-Lenglen’s “Davis Cup” mode. “There is a difference between a good atmosphere and excessive support for your playerhad estimated the Australian. But there is a line that should not be crossed. When people look me straight in the eye and say things to me, the line is crossed.” So Jelena Ostapenko or Pablo Carreno Busta didn’t look very happy either.

Conversely, Casper Ruud, winner in four fierce sets of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the Central in the last match of Manceau’s career, swears that the public, even turbulent, never behaved badly with him. . “Inevitably, 98% of the public was won over to Jo’s cause, but there was also respect for me, he said. They weren’t heckling me either. They behaved well with me. The French are very passionate about tennis, but they also show a lot of respect for the two players..”

John Isner stands on the same line as the Norwegian. He also stuck with a Habs for his entry into the tournament. It was last Sunday, on the Lenglen, against Quentin Halys, for a success in four sets. “I found the audience great, had entrusted the American giant. The fans are passionate here and I think the players like it. They sing, they shout, like in a football match and it’s a great experience to experience that at Roland-Garros. Me, it amused me. I tried to stay focused, but frankly, I’m very happy to have experienced this atmosphere.”

French fans on the Suzanne-Lenglen encouraging Hugo Gaston

Credit: Getty Images

Overcome or, better, rely on this hostility

It’s also a way to gain the respect of local audiences, according to Casper Ruud. “When I faced Benoît Paire on the Simonne-Mathieu (in 2021, editor’s note), the atmosphere was terrible too, evokes the world number 8. But if you fight, the public will respect you and they will learn to like you..”

If anger is a bad counsellor, bitterness never serves the cause of the one who bears it. The best reaction is that of an Alcaraz at Bercy last year. Carried away by Hugo Gaston and even more by a particularly agitated and dissipated crowd, the young Spaniard would have had a lot of mitigating circumstances if he had complained afterwards. But from the height of his 18 years, he had shown himself to be of rare intelligence: “I knew it would be difficult to deal with such an atmosphere, but I hadn’t imagined it would be so heavy. It hurt me not to be able to manage this pressure. (…) But I’m sure I’ll come back stronger.”

By reacting in this way, Carlos Alcaraz was not throwing the blame on the public but on himself. Whatever the context of a match, it is up to the player to find the means to get out of it. Ask Novak Djokovic, who played a few Grand Slam finals against Roger Federer (who doesn’t need to play in Switzerland to be at home) with a stadium almost entirely against him before leaving with the trophy under the arms. It is necessary to ignore, even to rely on this hostility. All this is of course easier to advise than to put into practice, but it is also one of the aspects of the strength of character of a great champion. That’s why it’s not for everyone.

Handshake between Carlos Alcaraz and Hugo Gaston after the Frenchman’s victory in the round of 16 at the Rolex Paris Masters

Credit: Getty Images

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