Monday, January 21, 2008

French Are Flying High

The petit French feline Sophia, CYCLOPS' best friend, wanted to make sure we didn't forget about French success Down Under.

It's been a glorious tournament for French tennis, with 29 players starting the tournament and several making it to the fourth round. With the exception of Amelie Mauresmo, the players have made their mark.  French Tennis has been building for years, with a definite, different methodology at work. They find great athletes and turn them loose on tennis, and are not anxious for stunning results until the player is into his twenties. No angst over non-performing 24 year-olds from this country.

The breakout star is Jo-Wilifred Tsonga. Tsonga's mother is French and father Congolese. All his press refers to him as the Muhammad Ali of tennis because he looks like Ali. His run has been impressive: beating Andy Murray, last year's finalist Gonzalez ,and today his friend and countryman, Richard Gasquet, to advance to the QF.

Steve Bierley, writing for The Guardian, discusses Tsonga's long road back from a herniated disk. Tsonga was once the #2 ranked junior. (Who was ahead of him? Marcos Baghdatis). Since Tsonga beat the Great British Hope in the first round, you have to wade through several paragraphs of woe-are-we-British-tennis to get to the part about the French. The Brits are so jealous.

Other articles say that Tsonga and Gael Monfils used to pretend they were Andy Roddick when they were young juniors, mimicking his serve. That ought to make Andy feel prematurely old.

The French showing is remarkable when you consider that Monfils is out with an injury, and he's a firecracker, amazing athlete and tennis talent.

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