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Monday, May 10, 2010
Gasquet the answer to French blues?


Editor's note: Beginning May 10, Ravi Ubha unveils the top 10 French Open questions. Check back each weekday until May 21 as we count down to No. 1.

10. Can Les Bleus break through?

There's nothing quite like the fans at Roland Garros getting behind one of their own. But when a French player isn't doing too well, it can get ugly. Real ugly. Cue the barrage of whistles. Richard Gasquet's loss to Belgian journeyman Kristof Vliegen three years ago was the stuff train wrecks are made of.

Gasquet and the three other so-called new musketeers don't figure to give France a first men's champion in Paris, and first at any Slam, since Yannick Noah in 1983. They were the toast of the town in Melbourne only a year ago.

Gasquet, the shackles off when he got away with time served in "Pamela-gate," can't figure out how to win even a semi-big match. A defeat to John Isner in Serbia on Friday was simply another example. Gasquet crumbles under the pressure in France. Amelie Mauresmo knew the feeling. She'll probably have more fun watching this year's tournament (perhaps with a glass of wine in hand) than she had when she played in it.

Gael Monfils, France's shining light at Roland Garros the previous two seasons, missed two months with a left hand injury. He's hardly trained since the Davis Cup in March. Back in Estoril last week, the beneficiary of a wild card, Monfils subsequently withdrew due to illness. He made a late decision to play in Madrid.

"I won't go to Roland Garros in good condition," Monfils told L'Equipe prior to his withdrawal.

Gilles Simon, a revelation in 2008, is questionable with a lingering knee problem. Even if he shows up, he's nowhere near top form. And as good a competitor as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is, clay isn't his surface. Tsonga is capable of pulling off a good result on dirt, though not sustained results.

As for the women, Alize Cornet, a prospect two years ago, is nearly off the radar. It's all down to … Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai. Rezai, much improved, is nonetheless far from a title contender. She has a big win over Justine Henin, though.