Finding new tennis talent no problem in France

24th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 24 (AFP) - While Australia, Britain and even the United States struggle to produce quality new tennis players, the game in France is thriving.

MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 24 (AFP) - While Australia, Britain and even the United States struggle to produce quality new tennis players, the game in France is thriving.

France had the largest player representation at the Australian Open — 24 men and women — and three of them made the quarter-finals. This is more than Russia which had 15 players in the draw.

And established names, Sébastien Grosjean, Fabrice Santoro, Amélie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, are being chased by a crop of promising youngsters in Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils and Tatiana Golovin.

In contrast, Britain has little to look forward to, Australia's new talent is limited while the United States is having to search high and low for its future world number ones.

"It's great for the French federation to see so many players and young players coming through," said Grosjean, 26, who has been on the tour for 10 years and who has made his ninth Grand Slam quarter-final.

"Also in the juniors they can play very well on the tour (after leaving junior ranks), so this is great for French tennis. I mean, it's starting to be popular again in France."

Part of the popularity is not just the resurgence of Pierce and threat posed by Mauresmo, but the fact that there are exciting prospects banging on the door.

The biggest hope is Gasquet, an outstandingly-gifted 19-year-old who has been repeatedly billed a potential challenger to Roger Federer's crown.

He had a breakthrough year in 2005, winning his first ATP title in Nottingham and reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open and reducing his ranking to 12 after starting out the year at 109.

Monfils, 19, is also considered an exciting prospect, rising 200 places to world number 31 last year.

Paul-Henri Mathieu, who turned 24 last week, said part of the success was because France had such a good tennis federation.

"We have a good federation and we have many good young players," he said after being knocked out of the fourth round here by Grosjean. "And when you see one guy win, guys playing nearby also want to win. We have so many in the top 100 (nine men) that I think we shall soon see more in the top 30."

France has established new talent identification schemes around the country and has also improved the National Training Centre at Roland Garros which helps juniors make the transition to professional.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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