“Parrying is magic!“. “Here is Parry!“. In the first week of Roland-Garros, journalists and lovers of word games could let off steam. Diane Parry, 19 and a figurehead of Team Jeunes Talents – not forgetting Elsa Jacquemot, who also shone by opening her meter on the main course – was one of the prettiest blue thins. As one of the five tricolors, men and women, present in the third round, she reached this level of competition for the first time in a Grand Slam. By offering herself a 1/6 6/2 6/3 win as she faced world No. 2 and defending champion Barbora Krejčíková. Admittedly, the Czech had not played for three months, but the native of Nice knew how to deal with the pressure wonderfully. On the pitch, but also outside.
Calm, relaxed, the 2019 junior world champion did not let herself be carried away by the media hurricane. “I was very happy to see how well she handles pressure, English and the mediaobserved Bertrand Cizeau, communications director at BNP Paribas. Because she followed the entire program of the BNP Paribas Young Talents team.“In addition to the financial support provided to these hopefuls whose families are unable to meet the financial demands of the youth circles, the project provides training in extra-sports activities. Thanks to language, marketing, tennis history, social media and media training modules. “The program helps us in all areas, financially, mentally and through a lot of goodwill. Astrid Lew Yan Foon, 16 years old, told us. These encounters with great players, that’s incredible. We are really lucky.”
A success across borders. In addition to the French, there were already teams in the USA and Italy, but two new ones have emerged: in Belgium and Poland. “It is difficult for some parents, so being able to support a high-level project in Belgium is an extremely valuable helpexplained Justine Henin, including 40 young people from her academy near Brussels, who are now supported by the Young Talents program. It is also a sign of strong self-confidence to say to young people: “We are here, we support you”. And it’s not just financial. What connects us (their academy and the youth program) is the love of tennis. We want to share that with young people who have the same love. The aim is to work on values that we consider important in order to achieve greater simplicity again in a world that is becoming more and more professional..”
“What we don’t want to see are talented kids who end up being plagued by pressure” – John McEnroe
“Polish tennis is at its best right now, with Hubert Hurkacz and Iga Świątekexplained Mariusz Fyrstenberg – godfather of the Poland team and captain of his country’s Davis Cup team – during the press conference organized in a lounge overlooking the Philippe Chatrier Square, while the world No. 1 was training there in amazement at the time gaze of his young compatriots. I think it’s only a matter of time before a new wave arrives on the pro scene (after Świątek and Hurkacz). This program (Young Talents) is very important, besides the financial one, for travel, coaches, physiotherapists, as well as to discover big stadiums (like Roland-Garros that day) and big champions like Jo, Justine, John… All that is very important, it allows us to go in the right direction.”
John McEnroe, charismatic mentor of the BNP Paribas Mac 1 team, made up of 12 young people within his New York academy, has focused the transmission of his knowledge on the mental aspect. “I was 18 when I first came to Europehe said. I arrived without a coach, physical therapist, physical or mental trainer for seven weeks. I was sent away with the words “come on, good luck” and that was it. Now you understand why I was a little crazy. This type of promotion (the Young Talents program) is essential in an increasingly specialized tennis world. My job is to give these young people the desire to be on the pitch, to enjoy what they do, to give 100%. Of course we teach them how to play, but we also have to see if they have the heart, the inner fire.”
“If they don’t have that, they don’t stand a chanceadded “Big Mac”. What we don’t want to see is kids who have a lot of talent but end up under pressure. We’ve seen it with Osaka or Simon Biles, mental health is important. Simona Halep had a panic attack (against Zheng Qinweng in the second round of Roland-Garros) after being on the circuit for a dozen years. Godfather of the Blue Team founded in 2018, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, has become a big brother. “Now that I’ve finished my playing career, I can be even more present for young people,” he said happily. Yes, of course you can address me individually, my door is open. But that is very rare (smile).”
“My door is open” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
“Yes, as you say, they don’t always darehe added. And I understand, because I put in their place. When I was her age, I said to myself: “Am I really going to call Yannick Noah, Cédric Pioline or anyone else so they can help me if I don’t know them?”. There is a lot of humility, and that’s normal. And on my side it’s the same, there’s modesty for fear of making them uncomfortable by contacting them myself when they haven’t asked me anything. It can be a little bit slurred, like a couple (smiles). That’s why the program is interesting, it allows you to connect with these young people.‘ An impression confirmed by Astrid Lew Yan Foon: ‘I really struggled at first, I was super intimidated to see him in front of me.”
“But what’s super cool is that it makes us super comfortableshe continued. Even if we remain a little shy. I had the opportunity to tap with him at the Central and he also came to the Quimper Open where we could chat with him. Even if we don’t really trust each other. We could get a little closer to him.” On the other hand, on the floor, no problem of shyness. In November, Astrid, getting on her nerves, gave the champion a victory dampening. “It’s different on the pitch‘ she laughed a few hours before entering the Roland youth tournament, along with seven other French young talents: Sarah Iliev, Mathilde Ngijol Carré, Ophélie Boullay, Jenny Lim, Loan Lestir, Arthur Géa and Gabriel Debru, one of the favorites among the boys . Wheelchair tennis’ great hope, Guilhem Laget, took part in the main draw for the first time in his career.
And all along with the 23 other members of the team have decided to play for others as well. On their own, following the example of the #FAAPointsForChange project with Félix Auger-Aliassime, they came up with the idea of donating one euro to the Apprentis d’Auteuil Foundation for every point won in a game. “It’s a great thing, it also allows us to take a little bit more responsibility,” commented Arthur Cazaux, 19 years old and 344th in the world. Being on the pitch will also give us the desire to do well. We will no longer only play for ourselves, but also in our thoughts for these disadvantaged children.” What you want to say in complicated situations on the pitch in order to give back to the opponents. And to put something aside for a good cause. No pun intended, of course.