French still haunted by claims of style over substance
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It is a long-standing cliche in men's tennis that French players have an abundance of flair but would rather look good than get results. Joie de vivre? Tick. Style over substance? Tick. Grand slam singles titles. No tick.
It is almost 30 years since Yannick Noah won the French Open, a victory that many hoped would open the floodgates for a generation of French grand slam champions.
But since then, the country that provided 13 men in this year's Australian Open singles, second only to Spain (16), has failed to win any grand slam singles titles.
Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce won two grand slams each but despite a generation of outstanding players, Frenchmen have come up short.
Since Noah's triumph, France have had four men reach five grand slam singles finals. Australian Open quarter-finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy will be hoping to make it six in Melbourne on Sunday. Guy Forget, the former France Davis Cup captain and now tournament director of the Paris Masters, believes the reason for the lack of success has nothing to do with cliches.
"I think you're born a champion," Forget told Reuters. "I don't think any programme in the world will make you win a grand slam, otherwise China would have won a few majors already.
"I have lived in Switzerland for more than 20 years now and they have a good programme, but you don't say that because of that programme Roger Federer was the best player that ever lived.
"I think if Federer was born in Cape Town or Buenos Aires, he would have won. If he was Argentinian, people would have said they had the best programme in the world. Roger was born a champion, he was born and raised to become that incredible player."
France is not alone. Andy Murray's U.S. Open victory last September gave Britain a first male grand slam champion for 76 years. Australia dominated the sport in the 1960s and 1970s but has won just five titles since 1983. Andy Roddick was the last American man to win a grand slam, the U.S. Open in 2003.