Since the start of qualifying on Monday at Roland-Garros, track No. 14 has been the scene of many changes. The outdoor sleeping scenarios and the crazy elevators paraded all week in the heat of the Porte d’Auteuil. But Friday, between the drops, Geoffrey Blancaneaux is undoubtedly the one who came back from further afield. Not in accounting terms, because his duel against the German Daniel Masur in the third and last round turned out to be a demonstration (6-1, 6-3 in 1:08). No, at 23 he came from even further back.
“It does something”confessed in a wavering voice that his father, Michel, saw the 198th player in the world start his lap of honor with the French flag on his back. He deserves it. For him it is the reward of fifteen years of work, with six difficult last years. † Winner of the junior tournament in 2016, especially in the final of the Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime (current 9th player in the world), Blancaneaux had all the trouble in the world to confirm this. He was in 569th place at the end of 2018 and was thinking about stopping everything, far from the hopes his title aroused. “A year ago he almost didn’t know how to play tennis, he couldn’t get a ball in it”remembers his trainer Xavier Le Gall. We were at the end of the world and he didn’t win a game, mentally tough. †
Fucsovics will be his opponent in the first round
A very distant description of the player who appeared to be walking on water on clay in Paris on Friday. “He has all the rules with him”, exclaimed France’s Davis Cup team captain Sébastien Grosjean, one of 2,200 spectators who attended the rebirth of the only Frenchman to have emerged from qualifying. Confident and fast up front, he caused an ola at the end of the first set after a one-handed backhand pass, which he normally plays with two hands. “From the moment I set foot on the field, I felt the special atmosphere, he said after his success. I loved this moment. I wanted it to last for hours and hours. †
Released from a weight last December thanks to his first Challenger success in Portugal, Blancaneaux, long hair and white headband on his head, was only shaking for half a time. On his first chance to fold the game, he didn’t let a ball slip that looked like it would come out. Despite a second pattern, he dropped his face-off and a hint of disaster struck runway No. 14, but failed to gain the Frenchman’s confidence. “It didn’t occur to me, I had the game under control and was ready to survive it if I needed to. † The chance will never arise, Blancaneaux joins Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, 55th player in the world, in the first round on his third match point. “I have three wins, there are seven more if I want to carry the trophy,” he blurted out with a smile that didn’t seem to want to leave him.
Geoffrey Blancaneaux, during his third qualifying round. (S. Boué/The team)