The second week of the French Open provides us with several big clashes between leaders of the tennis circuit. But the first week saw some players live an exceptional adventure.
Paul-Henri Mathieu excelled in his adventure. With a fractured tibia, he was not able to put his feet on the floor for months last year. He won his first round match against Bjorn Phau in five sets before winning against John Isner after a clash of the Titans - 18/16 in the last set - and losing in five sets against Marcel Granollers. In addition to the physical exploits, the exceptional game quality played by a man who stayed away from courts during a whole year left us stunned.
Paul-Henri has shown mentally qualities of an extreme fighter, far from the image that the crowd had of him. He succeeded where he failed in the past.
Is this an exploit?
Yes and no. Yes because coming back from so far away, and being able to win such games is an exploit, on the medical side. On the human side and on the tennis side,
no because Paulo is capable of everything. He is a player deeply involved in his professional project, a very hard worker and brave. I always thought he was gifted. The racket is the extension of his hand, he has tennis in his heart, seeing him playing so fast at such a level doesn't surprise me.
If Paul-Henri succeeded in surprising himself, it is also thanks to the crowd support and he has used wisely the adrenalin of the most important tournament for him. From next week, he will have to find other centres of motivation and forget his Parisian experience to focus on future.
Are those victories a trigger for him?
If he knew how to triumph where he failed in the past, this exploit might give him the feeling that he is capable of everything. He doubted a lot about himself in the past.
David Goffin was also amazing in this tournament. This young Belgian lost during the last round of the qualifiers. He was allowed to play in the French Open after the withdrawal of a player from the final draw (Gael Monfils). He won three games, beat Radek Stepanek, Arnauld Clément and Lukasz Kubot, before putting up a decent show in defeat to Roger Federer.
It is interesting to see how pressure is an inhibitory or a wonderful drug, depending on his viewpoint. First of all, because of too much expectancy around him, which was the possibility to qualify for the final draw, David didn't know how to play his best tennis, emotionally bridled by the stake. Second of all, eliminated, we offered him a second chance. Then, considering all the next moments as bonuses, he was really released which allowed him to produce some big performances.
For David, this result is great for his improvement dynamic. Such an event can enhance his confidence. He would have learned a lot especially regarding his setting up of his game. However, it is always hard to come back down from the excitement of such a tournament for the next less important tournaments where, from now on, he will be known as favourite. He might want to win everything very fast and this is the trap. He will have to be patient and try to limit his own expectations to keep his mind in the present.
We will see if he progresses from this exceptional week and will be stronger than the new pressure that he will encounter during the future small tournaments. If this is the case, he will continue to evolve fast in the rankings because his game qualities and his maturity already make him a gifted and fine player.
One thing is for sure, we will hear about him in the future. He has the potential to reach the promising young players group from the 90/92 generation where you can find Raonic, Tomic, Harrison, Dimitrov, Kuznetsov and Krajinovic.