This is the story of a Frenchman for whom clay court stories usually end badly. The anomaly is unfortunate when you come from the country which hosts the only Grand Slam tournament on ocher carpet. In fifteen participations in the final draw at Roland-Garros since 2008, Adrian Mannarino has only won… three games – a missed meeting or a misunderstanding, it depends.
Sunday May 28, at the end of the traditional aperitif day of the tournament, the Francilien (47e world) played appetizers for his compatriot Ugo Humbert, 40e (6-3, 6-3, 6-1), in front of 10,000 young people, invited to the Philippe-Chatrier court by the tournament’s banking partner to celebrate its 50 years of commitment to tennis.
If I catch the guy who invented clay…
Could the 34-year-old boy be allergic to crushed brick? We had hoped to ask him the question directly, but for the past two years, all the requests from the Monde remained unanswered. Including this year in the holy of holies at the Porte d’Auteuil. Not that the French number 2 is flanked by guards who padlock his communication, on the contrary, he has “no agent or trainer as far as we know at the moment”, says the Association of Professional Tennis Players (ATP), which manages the men’s circuit.
Nor does he show symptoms of acute melonitis – this has unfortunately already been seen among the tricolor contingent of his generation. It’s quite the opposite. “He likes his anonymity and being quiet in his corner, explains his compatriot and friend Grégoire Barrère (world No. 55). I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t feel strong compared to the others, even though he’s a great player…”
Unidentified tennis object
On the circuit, Mannarino is an “OTNI”: unidentified tennis object. Neither very tall (1.80 m) nor very strong (79 kg), the left-hander is not the type to slam two aces per game or send cannonballs. When the locker room stretches his string on average to 22-24 kg, he plays with a racket stretched to 11 kg – a little less than a badminton or squash racket. Guaranteed trampoline effect, the ball bounces quickly and gives power and comfort to the strike. Disadvantage: loss of control and precision.
This hard worker knows he has to hit more balls than the others to earn points, but he compensates with a magic wrist and an innate sense of timing. As a blocker, he delights in interfering in the minds of his opponents to the point of sometimes driving them crazy. On grass, the surface he prefers, or on fast hard, “even if his ball is quite grazing, he has a fairly safe game”attests Arnaud Clément, ex-10e global. His only two career titles, the Poulidor on the circuit (he lost 9 of his 11 finals…) went to get them at Bois-le-Duc (Netherlands), on grass, in June 2019, and at Winston-Salem (North Carolina, 2022) on hard.
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