Current president of the French Tennis Federation, elected in February 2021, Gilles Moretton is the exceptional guest of Europe 1 Sport, the day after the opening of the Roland-Garros tournament. The leader and former professional player answered questions from journalist and editorialist Jacques Vendroux and Axel May.
While the Parisian Grand Slam tournament opened this Sunday, the first under the direction of Amélie Mauresmo, Gilles Moretton, 64, gave an exclusive interview to Europe 1. He returns to his responsibilities as president of the federation, his first year at the head of it, the future of French tennis but also his Urban Tennis project, intended to popularize the sport throughout France, particularly among the young generation.
On his responsibilities: “We will regain the good health of tennis”
“Life taught me to take my responsibilities as a player on the court, then as a business manager. There, it’s a heavy responsibility. But I arrive in a period where tennis has suffered for a year. We had the Covid crisis which caused us to lose 95 million euros, tennis results were not very good, licenses had been declining since 2010. And then there, after a year , we have raised the bar. On the financial level, we are going to pass the million licensees, so it is a bit historic. We had lost it. We are going to regain the good health of tennis, both in terms of the practice of everyone, family, leisure, health, but also on the high level because tennis is always so attractive. We saw it with the Australian Open, in all the tournaments I was able to see in France and then at Roland-Garros. The interest in this tournament shows that tennis is doing well in France but also internationally.”
On the competition with the other Grand Slams: “We absolutely have to challenge ourselves”
“We are going to get completely into the heart of the game. We are constantly threatened. We are in a global competition, which has also led me to recruit Amélie Mauresmo at the head of the tournament. We cannot rely on our laurels by saying that the Roland-Garros tournament is beautiful, it is magnificent. No, my predecessors, I tend each time to pay tribute to Philippe Chatrier, who was our president, who brought tennis in the modern era and then, from year to year, we arrived at this extraordinary setting that is Roland-Garros. We absolutely have to challenge ourselves because the competition is there. On the prize money, we do not fight with the same weapons as with Wimbledon or the Australian Open. We each have a specificity, an identity. Here, it’s a tournament that is prized where the image of tennis has a bit of this high-end side, a little bourgeois, snob. That’s not the case at all. Tennis, that’s not what it is in France. When we go to our clubs in the depths of our departures ments, we realize that tennis is played everywhere and for everyone. One of my battles will be to change that image. We tend to see tennis through the Roland-Garros television screen. These boxes, these hats in the presidential gallery give a somewhat upscale image. But this is not the reality of the practice. We are a popular sport, really practiced everywhere.”
The nomination of Amélie Mauresmo: “I nominated a competitor”
“I would like to pay tribute to Guy Forget who did a remarkable job, who gave tennis a formidable image. He was an ambassador for years. At some point, you have to question yourself, be able to start afresh. zero. By appointing Amélie Mauresmo, I named a competitor, someone who has always questioned herself, who is able to go to the end of her ideas, who is demanding in terms of quality and who has brought us a lot She did not respond to your interviews at one point, because she had a learning phase and in her learning phase she really wanted to know the files, to work with all the teams. really a considerable job. Now, she has mastered, she knows and she will give impetus to her touch. We will see on this new Roland-Garros what will be very different. We will see a little of Amélie’s imprint on the tournament. “
On the future of French tennis: “It’s a bit like my project”
“Let’s not forget that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, they were the four at the same time in the ten best players in the world, but we spoke very little about them because above them, there were the Nadals, Djokovic and Federer who were building their careers. There, we have a small hole in the racket, as we say in tennis, and we are waiting for the next generation. The next generation, it is there, it gets results from time to time. It is sometimes between 20ᵉ and 50ᵉ place. It varies and we have good players. We have a tennis school, we have a considerable number of clubs. We is also the first nation in the world in players ranked at the ATP and in players ranked at the WTA, but well ahead of the other nations. We also have a training system which is good, which is good up to twelve- fourteen years. And behind it, it’s a bit like my project as president of a federation with the national technical management, flaws have been identified. So we’re talking about flaws, but we’re also talking about an evolution. Things have changed. My generation or the next generation, we were almost the only ones trained by the federation. Our coaches were federal coaches and there wasn’t much else. Today, we started with a different model where there are individual coaches who are doing a very good job. I think we have to change our model in relation to this situation.”
His favorites of the tournament: “We have an open Roland-Garros”
“I have an idea because I follow professional tennis closely. In women, today we have Iga Swiatek (Polish, world number 1) who won several tournaments in a row who today dominates women’s tennis The departure of Ashley Barty has made the place open. But behind, there is the Greek Maria Sàkkari (Number 4) who is playing well. There is Alizé Cornet who had a good result at the US Open, at the Australian Open and that we are waiting for here. And then there are these two young players who were in the final of the US Open (Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu, respectively number 17 and number 12 in the world), who have disappeared a bit of the situation, radically. We were happy to see them arrive and we are a little sad that behind them, they did not show results. Among the men, the excitement is at its height at Roland-Garros. Because that there, we have Roland-Garros “open” (open, editor’s note) whereas for years, we have had a Roland-Garros with Rafael Nadal, the favorite on earth beaten and then there, first we see the others getting closer, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev who we will find here at Roland-Garros, but also the young Carlos Alcaraz, who everyone is talking about and that’s true that it makes you dream. He impressed everyone during the Madrid tournament, but we have Djokovic, the big favorite, who we don’t talk too much about and who will still arrive with the Madrid title in his pocket. And then Rafael Nadal, of course.”
On the presence of Rafael Nadal: “We are very close to him”
“We are necessarily happy. He is a bit like the ambassador of Roland-Garros with his titles, with his prize list, with his statue and we are very close to him. We like his behavior, we like his attitude and we want to see him here play. And then, why not win again?
On the duel Novak Djokovic – Rafael Nadal: “The challenge is at its height”
“That’s why this tournament is exciting and exciting. It’s true that in the competition, we can place the Grand Slams a little above the fray. They are the only ones to distribute 2000 points where the ATP 1000 distribute 1000 points. Djokovic was necessarily very injured (He could not participate in the Australian Open, because not vaccinated against Covid-19). What about leaving like that without having been able to play and defend his chances in Australia? And then behind especially, seeing Rafael Nadal win the title where Djokovic was rather favorite. The challenge is at its height but behind, it grows. Tsitsipas lost in the final in Rome (against Djokovic), I think that he must have recorded the mistakes made and that he is not going to repeat them a second time. And then there is Carlos Alcaraz who is there. We will see in the draw. It will be quite interesting to see the picture take shape in the level of the quarter-finals and semi-finals.”
On the presence of Russian and Belarusian players, whom the Wimbledon tournament did not accept: “This is France’s position”
“On March 9, the sports ministers of the European Union as well as other ministers such as the Americans, the Canadians, the Japanese, the Australians, took a position concerning Russian and Belarusian players. It was agreed with the Olympic Committee and the international federations to prohibit these two nations on the team matches. So unfortunately you will not see the Russian team playing in the Davis cup. On the other hand, it was authorized for the players to play individually without playing under their banner, under their anthem, under their flags.”
On the stands of the central court: “The presidential stand will be occupied by volunteers”
“We have, in the past, made the choice to have dressing rooms at the edge of the field. My desire is to bring more and more the public, the tennis fans, those who arrive on first and who leave last, at the edge of the court. So it will be done over time. Measures have been taken this year. I have decided that the presidential stand, which is often empty, be occupied by volunteers. These people who dedicate their lives to tennis, who give their time, we have reserved almost half of the presidential stand for them and they, in the car, are there. schedules Up. These side tickets will allow people who are or in the stadium to occupy the boxes when they are empty. So we have a rotation system. We have tried to fill and in time, we will try to improve. I think that’s part of Amélie Mauresmo’s wish. We want tennis fans to be able to be there to encourage them because they are there first, they are there last, at the end of the day, when it is necessary to encourage the players.