French Tennis Players Reflect on Mixed Season
For the Tricolores, the season ended on Saturday with the coronations of Ugo Humbert and Adrian Mannarino, respectively in Metz and Sofia (Bulgaria), for a contrasting result.
ATP Season Concludes with Disappointing Results
The ATP season is in its twilight. The Turin Masters, which took place from November 12 to 19, brought together the eight best male players of the year. Since 2016 and the participation of Gaël Monfils, no French representative has attended this event meant to conclude the ATP calendar. At the same time, the Cancun Masters has already delivered its verdict for women, without any French player participating either.
Even though the Next Gen Masters (which does not earn any ATP points), featuring Arthur Fils and Luca van Assche from November 28 to December 2, and a few second-rate tournaments will still take place, it is time to review the season for French players. The overall performance for men was better than that of 2022, but it remains mixed due to disappointing performances in Grand Slams and the absence of a true leader, both in women’s and men’s categories.
A Mediocre Year at the Grand Slam
Caroline Garcia and that’s it. Only one French player managed to reach the second week of a Grand Slam tournament in 2023. Under the Open era (since 1968), only one year had a worse record (0 in 2021). At the Australian Open in January, Garcia managed to win three matches before being eliminated in the round of 16, unknowingly achieving the best French performance of the year in a major tournament. This result was seen as a disappointment for the woman who started the season as the world number 4, following her strong finish in 2022.
Garcia was also the only French player to participate in all four tournaments with seeded status. It wasn’t until the end of the summer and the US Open that another French representative made it to the main draw of a Grand Slam as one of the top 32 ranked players in the world. Among the men, Adrian Mannarino (ranked 22nd, eliminated in the 3rd round) and Ugo Humbert (ranked 29th, eliminated in the 1st round) saved the honor, but the year passed without anyone playing a leading role in the most prestigious tournaments.
Youthful Momentum Brings Hope for Men’s Tennis
The era of the “Four Musketeers” is definitively over. For the second year in a row, the best French male player is neither Gaël Monfils (ranked 77th), nor Richard Gasquet (ranked 79th), nor Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nor Gilles Simon (both retired). His name is Ugo Humbert. At 25 years old, he had his best season on the ATP circuit, ending on a high note with a title in Metz, which allowed him to achieve his career-best ranking of 20th.
Adrian Mannarino, who won three titles since July (Newport, Astana, and Sofia), fought with Humbert until the end for the status of French No. 1. The atypical season of the veteran, also reaching his best ranking at the age of 35, should not overshadow the fact that the surge of French hopes in 2023 was particularly marked by the blossoming of Arthur Fils and Luca van Assche, both 19 years old.
Fils, who won the title in Lyon at the end of May, is already ranked third among the French players (36th in the world) and is set to compete in the Next Gen Masters as the number 1 seed. Van Assche, although progressing at a slower pace (ranked 67th in the world), entered the Top 100 in April at the age of 18. These young players contributed to 47% of French tennis players’ ATP points in 2023, the highest ratio over the last 10 seasons. Arnaud Clément, a franceinfo consultant, believes that “2023 was a positive year for the French clan.”
Caroline Garcia Disappoints, Leaving a Void
After her impressive performance at the end of 2022 with a semi-final appearance at the US Open and a victory at the WTA Masters, Caroline Garcia was expected to shine in 2023. She had the opportunity to aim for the world podium given the low number of points she had to defend in the first part of the season. However, she failed to maintain her momentum and gradually dropped in the world rankings. In 2023, Garcia went from being ranked 4th to 20th in the world, with two lost finals (Lyon and Monterrey) and no titles. Despite still being the leading French player, she couldn’t prevent it from being the worst year for the French clan in terms of WTA points in the last ten years.
Behind Garcia, the second-best French player is Varvara Gracheva. The 23-year-old Frenchwoman, who was born in Russia and became a French citizen in June, is ranked 43rd in the WTA thanks to her strong performance in the United States in March (reaching the round of 16 at Indian Wells and Miami after qualifying, and reaching the final in Austin). Her rise in the rankings prevents a complete void between Garcia and the rest of the French players. Clara Burel, whose breakthrough is still anticipated, ended 2023 at her career-best ranking of 60th. In terms of singles, no French player won a tournament on the main circuit this year.