Top French players defeated

31st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 31, 2007 (AFP) - French hopes of a first men's singles title at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah nearly a quarter of a century ago lay in tatters Wednesday after the defeat of their top players in the opening two rounds.

PARIS, May 31, 2007 (AFP) - French hopes of a first men's singles title at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah nearly a quarter of a century ago lay in tatters Wednesday after the defeat of their top players in the opening two rounds.

Veterans Sebastien Grosjean (28), Arnaud Clement (29) and Fabrice Santoro (34) all failed to make it past the first round to the dismay of the partisan Parisian crowds.

And matters got distinctly worse on Wednesday when French No.1 Richard Gasquet had a nightmare game on the centre court against Belgium's Kristof Vliegen losing 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-1.

Much had been expected of the 11th seed who has long been regarded as one of the most precocious talents in the game but who has struggled with injuries and mental lapses.

The 20-year-old from the southern rugby town of Beziers was complaining of a bad blister on his racquet hand going in to the tournament, but he looked comfortable in his straight sets first round win over compatriot Nicolas Mahut.

Instead it was the mental side that let him down against Vliegen, a 24-year-old ranked world No. 74.

"I'm shocked. It wasn't great to say the least," he said after trudging off court to scattered jeers from the dejected home fans.

"I sort of liquified little by little after I lost the first set. The court was too big and the people were expecting too much of me.

"And I wanted to do things well and put too much pressure in myself and didn't succeed. It was rubbish."

That pressure may have started as soon as he rose from bed on Wednesday morning to find his picture plastered over the front page of L'Equipe under the headline "The youngsters are taking over."

The highly-respected and read sports daily said that the times were changing, a new generation was taking over in French tennis and Gasquet was the pick of the new boys on the block.

The former top junior was also resplendent on the front cover of the official French Open programme and he was given pride of place as second match up on the Philippe Chatrier centre court.

It all, it seems, proved too much for him to cope with especially after the crowd started to jeer some of his efforts.

"When people feel you're not playing your best tennis, they're not happy. It's quite natural," he said.

"But then what you feel on the court is very difficult. You feel really lonely. You feel really on your own.

"I never felt more alone on a court than today. It was horrible."

Gasquet's collapse evoked memories of the many Paris failures endured by top woman player Amelie Mauresmo who despite winning at Wimbledon and Australia has never gone beyond the quarter-finals here in 12 attempts.

Mauresmo, who won her opening match minutes later, had words of consolation for her countryman.

"People say you learn a lot from defeats and it's true," she said.

"It happened to me in the past. And the only thing I wish for him is to learn for this match he lost."

Fading French hopes, however, were given a slight boost late in the day with wins for youngster Gael Monfils and doubles expert Michael Llodra, but neither were seeded or expected to make it much beyond the first week.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, French Open, Roland Garros

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