By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – A combination of injuries, a lack of confidence and poor results mean there is a little chance of a French player shining at Roland Garros this year let alone claiming a title that has eluded the country’s men since 1983 and the women since 2000.
When Lucas Pouille reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January, French hopes were raised that they might finally have a player who could be a force to be reckoned with at the majors.
Yet Amelie Mauresmo’s protege then went three months without winning a match until he claimed the title at a second-tier tournament in Bordeaux in May.
This, however, was followed by a second-round loss at the Madrid Open and a first-round defeat at the Italian Open for the world number 25.
Last year, none of France’s men went past the third round and only the 16th-ranked Gael Monfils appears to have a chance of surpassing that this season.
Yet the flamboyant Monfils, who won in Rotterdam in February, has been hampered by injuries, the latest being a knee problem.
Asked how he prepared for the French Open, Monfils said bluntly: “I rested. I had some MRIs, block tests to see what my body was doing, and then I started training.”
Tournament director Guy Forget put on a brave face when asked about French hopes at Roland Garros this year.
“They can play the surprise card. Because of their experience in the Grand Slams, Jo-Wil(fried Tsonga), Richard (Gasquet), Gael (Monfils) and even Lucas Pouille, can have hope,” said Forget.
Gasquet only returned to competition earlier this month after going under the knife to treat a hernia with Tsonga losing in the first round in Monte Carlo and Rome having struggled with long-term injuries.
“I know I have little chance to play a good tournament (at Roland Garros),” Gasquet admitted.
Benoit Paire might be a safer bet having reached the final at the Lyon tournament where he will face Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime later on Saturday.
On the women’s side, Caroline Garcia made the fourth round last year but had struggled to reach the latter stages in any tournament this season until she reached the final in Strasbourg, where she will play Dayana Yastremska on Saturday.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)