Home Tennis Dream afternoon for the BNP Paribas Jeunes Talents Team, with Tsonga at the Roland-Garros Central

Dream afternoon for the BNP Paribas Jeunes Talents Team, with Tsonga at the Roland-Garros Central

by archysport

– Can I go and change here?
– Oh no, there is already a young girl who is changing.

This Tuesday afternoon, when he arrived at the Roland-Garros Central shortly after 1:30 p.m., Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was refused entry to a locker room with a smile. No matter. Accustomed to the place, the champion with the broad, communicative smile heads for another door. Discreetly, almost without signifying his presence. If he is the headliner that attracts the many media present, the former fifth world player does not behave like a star. The “stars” of the day, those for whom the event is organized, are the members of the BNP Paribas Jeunes Talents Team. Godfather of this “TBPJT”, the nicknamed “Jo” came to hit the ball with his godchildren.

Warmly, while knowing how to relax the chilly atmosphere of this month of November despite the combo sun plus blue sky reigning above the roof, closed, of the court Philippe-Chatrier. “Yes, it’s good to start by playing in the squares, it allows me to warm up, the breakdown is never very far (smile)”, Loose the 36-year-old player, joking about his“ old age ”. Goal achieved. Young people relax. To the point of launching challenges when facing the finalist of the 2008 Australian Open. Le Manceau on one side of the net, the young people on the other, they take turns with a racket.

“Give him a cushion”

The long flawless rallies follow one another, and, in line, we try to find ways to unbolt the statue. “Send a big latte (laughs)”, Launches one of the ten new members of the Team – Lenny Couturier, 13 years old – to Arthur Gea, 16th spring and finalist of the Davis Cup juniors with France. “I try to play him in the feet, but it doesn’t work”, Notes the latter a little later. “Give it a cushion”, We can also hear fuse in the middle of an atmosphere mixed with excitement, joy and pleasure of sharing the field with the second most successful man in French tennis behind Yannick Noah. Finally, the confidence coming, the much desired cushioning eventually arises.

While “JWT” is no longer alone but accompanied by some of the teenagers to face the others, when his turn comes, he has to bow to the cheeky touch of 16-year-old Astrid Lew Yan Foon. Smiling from ear to ear, this one is instantly applauded by the forty or so spectators, including many parents, seated in the stands. Between the jokes of a demonstrative Gabriel Debru – 15 years old, recently revealed by his first victories in Challenger -, the pure strikes of Luca Van Assche – 17 brooms, winner of Roland-Garros juniors and youngest player of the Top 700 (513rd) -, or even the one-handed backhand of Ophélie Boullay – 13-14 year old French champion – the session lasts more than an hour.

“Playing very well is great, but feeling good about yourself is even better” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

After this, place for another type of exchange. With a Tsonga swapping the racket for the microphone. “When we’re on the pitch all together, I feel like I’m reliving my youth, he explains in one of the boxes of the stadium. And she was beautiful (smile). I am delighted to be part of this project, with BNP Paribas which is at the initiative of something close to my heart. It is important, in my opinion, to be able to accompany young people to the top level. The help you (young people) receive is not only financial, but also human. Because playing tennis really well is great, but feeling good about yourself, especially in this environment, is even better.

But I’m not here to give advice or ‘lead’, I’ve always hated that people come and impose things on me, he adds. I’m here to share my experience, how it went for me.”A well of wisdom that young people thirsty for learning, like Arthur Cazaux, can drink. “This program set up by BNP Paribas was a big plus for my project and my progression to the top level., tells the current 284th of the ATP ranking, 19 years old, addressing his youngest children. Jo has always been there for me when I have questions. At first, I was obviously a little intimidated, but he was able to put me at ease. Don’t hesitate to ask him lots of questions. This is what made me move forward a lot.

“When you’re a better person, you’re also better on the court” – Arthur Cazaux

In addition to their godfather, the apprentices are also put in contact with Marion Bartoli, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Pauline Parmentier or, occasionally, sports monuments like Chris Evert, Yannick Noah, John McEnroe, Renaud Lavillenie, Tony Parker … But their training is not based solely on these interactions. “Speakers train us in social networks, marketing, we do ‘media training’, we have English lessons, Arthur recalls. All this extra-sportsmanship that BNP Paribas brings to us allows us to be a better person, and when you are a better person, you are also better on the court.

In this program, there are many things that I would have liked to enjoy when I was younger, then confides Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as an aside with the journalists. The (awareness of the importance of) nutrition (laughs), mental preparation, meetings with great athletes, the history of tennis, everything related to the environment: agents, sponsors, equipment.”Among the members of the Young Talents Team, in addition to the examples cited above, we notably include Mathilde Ngijol Carré, the winner of the Petis As 2021, and two junior world champions: Diane Parry (2019) and Elsa Jacquemot (2020). Proof, among many others, that the project fulfills its objectives: to give the necessary keys to aspiring champions so that they can hope to open the doors of the biggest tournaments in the world. And their changing rooms.

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