With most of the big names finally in action the play at Paris-Bercy was falling with most script writers – all the seeds win – well until the French get involved.
Eight of the top sixteen seeds in action today made it through to the quarter finals. Three did not. Last year’s runner up Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and Nicolas Almagro all bowed in their opening match of the tournament. Defeats which ended their chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals in London.
In total five Frenchman were defeated at Paris-Bercy, two by Spaniards and this is showing of a larger trend in tennis.
The French currently have ten players in the top 100, four of which are in the top 20 including Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils inside the top 10. Monfils will drop out after this event. The French only fall short to the Spanish on sheer numbers but there are some numbers but there are so big differences. There are 13 Spaniards in the world’s top 100, nine of which are placed in the top fifty. Three of which are in the top 20, of which two are inside the Top 10 lead by Rafael Nadal at number two and David Ferrer at five. Almagro is likely to re-enter to top 10 following Paris. They also have two players on the cusp of the top 20, Feliciano Lopez at 21 and Fernando Verdasco at 23.
The two countries recently met in the Davis Cup semi final with the Spaniards coming away easy 4-1 victors only losing the doubles tie. The French have lifted the coveted trophy nine times to Spain’s four but the France last won the Davis Cup in 2001, Spain last lifted the Davis Cup in 2009 and the Spaniards have won it three times since the last French victory and are shooting for a fourth. Six of the nine French victories came in the late 20s early 30s.
If we look at Grand Slam records the Spanish again dominate. In the Open Era six Spaniards have won the French Open, including Nadal six times and Sergi Bruguera twice, while Yannick Noah is the sole Frenchman. In fact Noah is the only Frenchman to win an open era grand slam title when he was victorious in 1983. Nadal has also claimed the Australian Open, Wimbledon twice and the US Open. The only other Spaniard to win off the red clay in Paris is Manuel Orantes when he won the US Open in 1975.
Despite the mass of numbers there has been very little French success. Tsonga, Monfils, Simon, Gasquet and co are among the most talented athletes on the tour but they rarely fire in big tournaments. For the quartet of Frenchman their best combined result this year was Tsonga’s semi final appearance at Wimbledon. Gasquet made the semis of the Rome 1000 event but beyond that no Frenchman has progressed beyond the quarters of any of the big events. Monfils was the last Frenchman to make a final of an upper level event, last year in Paris-Bercy, when he repeated his 2009 effort and Tsonga made the Australian Open final in 2008. Beyond that it is quarter finals at best for the French.
Where does this leave French tennis? They have massive resources in terms of players, talent and finance, but a history of disappointing results. Can their top players find consistent tennis because at their best they can compete with the Djokovics, Federers and Nadals. Or will the trend of big talent, not so big results continue?