How was your visit to Bordeaux organized?
It was Mica who asked me to come and join this little party. It is her jubilee and it is also the club’s 125th anniversary. Loïc Courteau, who is one of my best friends, is a son of the club. I am attached to the region that I love very much and to this Primrose club. I have won the Grand Prix Passing Shot twice here on clay and then on hard court. Reminds me of good memories.
Mica Llodra has often said that you have marked her career a lot, what does it represent for you?
We have a lot in common with Mica. We are the same size, we are left handed, we count on a great service. With Henri Leconte we won the Davis Cup in 1991, he was young and this must have marked him. At that time, there were also players of our style like John McEnroe who inspired me a lot. Then I captained Mica in the Davis Cup. I started it in doubles and then in singles because I understood his game system and the Davis Cup was a competition that transcended him. He could have been a team sports athlete. He is someone who feeds on that spirit. His father also played high-level football. He was strong at tennis, he would have been even stronger if he had played football. The Davis Cup is something that has marked him strongly, just like me.
Six months after leaving your position as director of Roland-Garros and the Paris Masters 1000, how do you spend your days?
first I took advantage of it! For a few months I took some time for myself. I started playing golf, love it and have made good progress, but it’s a bottomless pit! And then I slowly put my foot back in the stirrup, I have two projects that are not related to tennis but I remain linked to this sport. I will work during Roland-Garros with Prime Video, comment on the evening games and take my outside gaze also knowing how things are going inside. I am happy to experience this fortnight, it is an unmissable event in France. Since I was 13, this tournament has been part of my life, it’s my second home.
A few weeks into Roland-Garros, do you still feel sad about leaving this position?
You know sometimes, there are people with whom mayonnaise does not take. When the communication does not pass, it is preferable that each one makes his way on his side. After Roland-Garros there remains a tournament that I want to experience. I am passionate about this game and will never leave tennis. I will experience this tournament perhaps more fully. I will take advantage of it now that I have a little more perspective, and not my head on the grindstone as in recent years.
Since 1999 you have always held a position within the Federation and you have been an important player in French tennis, what do you think you will do now?
More than in the Federation, I have always gravitated towards tennis. Everything I do is about tennis and will continue. Today I am a brand ambassador. I have been asked and I have ideas. I still can’t imagine retiring, I’m too young (57 years old). There are so many things that interest me in sport.
Have you been in contact with Amélie Mauresmo since she took over?
We haven’t seen each other for a long time, at least since she took office. I haven’t passed Biarritz yet.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon are about to end their careers, you have had them by your side for a long time in the Davis Cup, how do you feel?
There is a moment in our career where we have to move forward. Either because the motivation is gone, or because of physical problems. They are convinced that now is the right time. Me, it was my body that dictated the end of my career and I didn’t live it well. They both went to their full potential. They have had extraordinary careers and we have to take their hat off for what they have done.
We turn a page in French tennis, how do you see the future in the short or medium term?
For a long time we had Richard, Gaël, Jo, Gilles, before them, we had Arnaud, Cédric Pioline, Sébastien Grosjean. We’ve always had regular players in the top 15. And then when we’ve had so many, we complained that none of them had won a Grand Slam title. And now we say to ourselves ‘ah, they go away, we no longer have anyone’ … We always tend to see the glass as half empty. These guys had a huge level of play. In two or three years we won’t have two, three or four players in the top 10. There are cycles. We have good youth teams, but there is still a long way to go after overcoming the youth teams. There is a huge amount of work to be done.
Is it worrying to see that there are no French in the women’s and men’s table of the Masters 1000 in Rome?
I’ll take an example. I think a player like Ugo Humbert should enter the top 10 one day. He got close to the top 20 there he’s in the trough of the wave, but when you have players like him, that’s encouraging. After that, I hope above all that the four young French who reached the semifinals of Roland-Garros last year as juniors, seeing Carlos Alcaraz enter the top 10, will say that it is possible. It should stimulate them.
You quote Carlos Alcaraz, do you see him as the future locomotive of tennis?
He will be the number 1 in the world, he will win the Grand Slam tournaments. After that, it’s hard to say if he’ll win 1, 5, 10 or 20… But he ticks so many boxes today. When we talked about the succession we mentioned Zverev, Tsitsipas and Medvedev, today, when we see Alcaraz playing, we already have the impression that he is stronger than these players when he is only 19 years old! He also has a great coach with Juan Carlos Ferrero. He is strong and will be very very strong.
A small prediction for this Bordeaux tournament?
There were Lucas Pouille, Richard Gasquet … I’m a little sad to have seen them leave so quickly, especially before Roland-Garros. We see a Verdasco who easily wins over Hugo Gaston (6-2, 6-2) and who is cut by Pablo Cuevas the next day (6-3, 6-0). There are some very strong guys. It is very difficult to say.
And for Roland-Garros?