and if Benjamin Bonzi saved the honor of the French in the Grand Slam tournaments?

Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi, during his victory against his compatriot Quentin Halys, in the first round of the US Open, in New York, August 28, 2023.

Defeated by Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final, Novak Djokovic will not succeed in the Grand Slam calendar in 2023, that is to say win the same year the four most prestigious tournaments. For their part, the Blues are still in the running to achieve a less flattering “Grand Slam”: at the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, none of them managed to reach the round of 16 in male paintings (Caroline Garcia did it in Melbourne). And it is not certain that the situation will change at the US Open.

In New York, they are three qualified in the third round to still carry the hopes of the tricolor. But for two of them, reaching the second week at Flushing Meadows would mean a small miracle. Arthur Rinderknech is preparing to challenge the Russian Andrey Rublev (8e world) while Adrian Mannarino will challenge the local Frances Tiafoe (10e). In the women’s tournament, only Clara Burel is still in contention. She will have a hard time facing the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, the world number 2.

Finally, the best hope of seeing a Frenchman in the round of 16 is Benjamin Bonzi. The 27-year-old Nîmes, ranked 108e rank, faces the Swiss Dominic Stricker (128e) in the night from Friday to Saturday.

It is paradoxical − and quite revealing of the form of French men’s tennis − to bet on a player “very happy to be in the third round” even if he didn’t have “not necessarily expected” go so far, as he told the French Tennis Federation (FFT) after his victory over the American Christopher Eubanks in the previous round. After a promising start to the season that took him to the 42e place, Bonzi suffered a series of injuries and a hell of a drop in the rankings, until he dropped out of the Top 100.

“It’s a hyper paradoxical season, with this encouraging start and after that it was, in quotation marks, the nightmareadds the Frenchman to the FFT. We have to rebuild everything in confidence, in what we put on the field. You have to take it upon yourself. I think this year I learned patience well. » Deprived of Roland-Garros because of his left wrist, Benjamin Bonzi then had to trade his usual two-handed backhand for a more experimental shot played with one hand at Wimbledon, until his arm was fully operational.

Succession is waiting for the Blues

Six defeats in the first round later, he finally regained a match in mid-August at the Challenger (the secondary tennis circuit) in Winnipeg (Canada). “Tennis is a sport made of sensations. And sometimes, a little grain of salt changes a lot of things…”he analyzed, Thursday, near The Team, evoking injuries and defeats. His black series behind him, Benjamin Bonzi will now try to be the “little grain of salt” in the algorithm tirelessly giving the same result: the French all disappear from the tables as the prestigious trophies approach.

Because since the “golden age” of the four “Musketeers” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils – French tennis is desperately looking for a successor. If the last two named resist and postpone the time of retirement, they no longer seem able to play the leading roles, at 37 years old. Behind, young Luca Van che and Arthur Fils (19 each) are beginning to emerge, but they were both hastily eliminated in New York.

Waiting for them to emerge at the highest level − or a last feat of arms of Monfils or Gasquet −, Benjamin Bonzi will try to reach the knockout stages of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. His opponent, Dominic Stricker, out of qualifying, created a sensation in the second round by taking out the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (7e) in five sets.

A victory for Bonzi against the Swiss would not be considered such an achievement, especially since the Frenchman could see things get seriously complicated in the next round, where a hypothetical duel against the 9e world, Taylor Fritz, is waiting for him. But it would at least allow French tennis to save appearances in 2023, and avoid the zero point of 2021.

Valentin Moinard

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