If you were at Roland Garros at dinner on Wednesday evening and heard nearly 10,000 fans chanting Lucas Pouille’s name at deafening levels, you’d think you’d missed the triumphant return.
far cry. The 29-year-old Frenchman was beaten in straight sets by Briton Cameron Norry in less than two hours on a court named after 1920s French tennis star Suzanne Lenglen. .
For 105 minutes, the French followers serenaded Pouille and greeted all the winners with enthusiastic cheers. His four-piece band, complete with horns and bass drum, hopped between points. If you’re a Frenchman competing in the French Open, that’s what you do.
Each of the four Grand Slam tournaments has its own charm and hidden quirks, rhythm and character.
The Australian Open is a two-week summer party at a time when much of the world is shaking. Wimbledon has its mystique, especially the feeling that the center court lawn is a sacred place, and the pin-dropping silence of the most appropriate crowd. The US Open brings tumultuous chaos, the rattle of the New York subway, and crowds who gleefully ignore the notion that tennis on the big stage should play out in silence.
A hallmark of Roland Garros is the near-infinite generosity of French fans united by those who play for the Bleu Blanc Rouge, known as the French standard. The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, is played spontaneously, as if you were in Humphrey Bogart’s café in Casablanca.
Pouille, once ranked 10th in the world but plagued by injuries and depression and now ranked 675th, came after defeating Austrian Yury Rodionov in the fading first round on Sunday.
“It made me want to keep trying to go back and experience it again,” said Pouille, who stayed to hear the serenade.
When a French player is on the court, any French player, on any court, sounds noticeably louder, higher and richer from the stands. It’s like a symphonic crescendo, repeated over and over for hours.
Amazingly, despite the fact that the French have done pretty much badly in this competition for so long, it continues – or maybe that’s why it happens. No Frenchman has won a singles title since Yannick Noah in 1983, or Henri Leconte in 1988. No French woman has won since Mary Pearce in 2000. It was the last time France played in the women’s singles final. .
The French philosopher Albert Camus famously wrote that the Greek mythological character Sisyphus must be considered happy despite spending his life repeatedly pushing rocks up. is. “
Camus would have been the perfect modern French tennis fan.
The high point of the tournament for the Frenchman came on Tuesday night. Gael Monfils, whose conflicting association with Gumby-like athleticism and tennis made him a folk hero in tennis, turned from the brink to defeat Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in five sets.
The 36-year-old Monfils battled injuries that kept him out of the game for the past year, but cramped so badly in the fifth set that he could barely walk. He was trailing 4-0, but the crowd never relented. hoped he would come back to life. The roar of Philippe Chatrier in this court could be heard more than a mile away. Just open the bedroom window and it was clear what was going on.
After winning 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5, Monfils told the crowd that the win was as much theirs as it was his.
The ecstasy ride ended 24 hours later when Monfils held a midnight press conference announcing his withdrawal from the tournament, citing a wrist injury.
It came at the end of a bad day for the Frenchman, who withdrew from all singles matches. Among them was Caroline Garcia, the fifth seed and the only French woman to be seeded.
Garcia said earlier this week that he is trying to capture the enthusiasm of the crowd and use it to his advantage. She’s been let down in front of her hometown fans in the past because of the pressure it puts on her. She has never made it past the quarterfinals.
“I’m trying to catch all this energy,” she said of the support. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Not so lucky. Garcia was in good form in her second-round match against Anna Brinkova of Russia on Wednesday, breaking her one set up. But she pulled herself together and took the lead. She drew in the third set at 5-5 thanks to the crowd, with Blinkova double-faulting and Garcia saving eight match points before losing 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. rice field.
Garcia said of Blinkova, “She controlled the crowd very well and kept her cool.”
There was more pain on Thursday as the Frenchman lost his last three singles matches, but that peculiar thirst was an accompaniment nonetheless. When final Frenchman Arthur Rinderknek lost to No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz on Thursday night, the crowd booed Fritz so loudly that he couldn’t hear his question during the on-court interview.
And a year from now, French fans will be pushing rocks up the hill again and again.