12 on the finish line, 5 in the second round, two in the third, and.. It was all over! In the absence of Tsonga the boss, the French contingent disappointed in Melbourne. But this little rundown of a bad French vintage at the Australian Open reminds us that we've seen much worse from Les Bleus in Grand Slams.
1978 Australian Open - No French in the 2nd round
What are we complaining about? The real Waterloo of French tennis will remain forever the 1978 Australian Open: a real dull plain, and not even a Simon/Ferrer to get our teeth into! After five weeks of preparation in the southern hemisphere, Yannick Noah, Pascal Portes, Christophe Freyss and Gilles Moretton all went packing on the evening of the first round!
Roland Garros 1993 - Only one French in the 3rd round
What was the French number 1 doing in a suit? In 1993, Guy Forget, injured, only came to the stadium to comment the matches for French National TV. And he didn’t had any reason to get enthusiastic: Henri Leconte, the avenger of 1992, got unmasked right away by the future winner Sergi Bruguera; as for Cédric Pioline, he got punished from the Wednesday by a Thomas Muster on fire. Two days later, Rodolphe Gilbert, who had the ungrateful part of ultimate French hope, proved once again how tennis is an inexact science: to beat a King in the second round (Boris Becker) doesn’t prevent to lose against a lackey in the next round (Slava Doseděl).
Roland Garros 1978 - Two French in the 3rd round
For the fiftieth anniversary of the Roland Garros stadium, it wasn’t the celebration one could have expected! Yannick Noah, who had just turned 18, became the victim of a media maelstrom then unequalled since the Musketeers. Dominated with honours by the titleholder Guillermo Vilas, the future favourite personality of the French left the stadium without even talking to the press. "I'm a little scared of the publicity made around his name. Yannick is a very talented boy, but he still hasn't proved anything internationally", said the French Official John Paul Loth. Youthful mistake! Roll on 1983!
1989 Australian Open - Two French in the 2nd round
In January 1989, it was an absolute "sadness" for Les Bleus. On one hand, Henri Leconte, depressed, said that he "couldn't stand the little yellow ball anymore”. On the other, Yannick Noah got crushed by the most slender of all Australians, Mark Woodforde, despite abs more swollen than ever after three months of training. Could anyone decently have predicted such a fiasco with two top-10 seeds?
Australian Open 2011 - Three french in the 3rd round
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was leading 2 sets to 1 against Dolgopolov, when suddenly... psst! In the wake of (logical) defeats of Gasquet and Monfils against Wawrinka and Berdych, the French already had a foot and a half in the second week when he suffered a mysterious blackout: the Ukrainian flew over the last two sets 6-1 6-1 in 44 minutes. What happened? "If you have the explanation, give it to me and I'll go and win everything!" What if he simply asked Nadal?
Wimbledon 1984 - One French in the 3rd round
Only French in the table (!), Guy Forget did what he could, only losing after a fifth set of 16 games against Andres Gomez in the round of 16. Not so bad for one of the rare Grand Slam of the 1980s played without Leconte and Noah.
US Open 1994 - One French in the 3rd round
Defending finalist, Cedric Pioline was once again the best French player in 1994. But this time, his adventure ended at the door of the round of 16 on the obscure court number 16 and against one of the smallest players on the tour the Peruvian Jaime Yzaga (6 ft. 9).
Australian Open 2002 - One French in the 3rd round
One year after Arnaud Clement's final, it was a rough time. The last French survivor had gone through the qualifications – being world 142nd. Jean-René Lisnard, defeated in 3 sets by Philipp Kohlschreiber, even finished his journey pretty bad physically, "I can't walk. I broke my nail, I can't even put my sock on." If Lisnard had been naturalized Monegasque a few years earlier, no French would have reached the second round... Phew!
Wimbledon 2006 - Two French in the 3rd round
The advantage of losing a night when France defeats Brazil in the World Cup, is that it goes unnoticed! Eliminated by Marcos Baghdatis on a festive evening, Sebastien Grosjean, the best French of this Wimbledon 2006 didn't disappoint many people. Besides, who remembers this match?