A little look back. In the summer of 2019, Grégoire Barrère, aged 24, joined the Top 100 for the first time in his career. A culmination. He will stay there for a whole year, with a peak at number 80, before leaving. The fall was first gradual, then brutal since, at the beginning of May 2022, it slipped to 247th place. In short, back to square one. Not obvious, at 28 springs. This is to say if, for him, this victory at Roland-Garros is worth a breath of fresh air. “Three weeks ago, I couldn’t imagine myself here at all. I’m surprised to come to this today“, he confessed on Sunday after crossing the course of the 1st round.
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Both on and off the courts, the Frenchman lived through a very complicated period at the crossroads of 2021 and 2022.I had my car boned in the parking lot in Boulognehe said, laughing, even if he didn’t really relish it at the time. There hasn’t been just that since the start of the season. I had the Covid at Christmas, so I was positive for 15 days. The Australian Open told me: ‘You can fly’, but the company told me no. Finally, after 15 days, I was able to leave. I arrived there, me moreover who needs to be very trained, otherwise I’m not a basic physical monster, I did four days of training there. I was a Turkish delight. It was really hard.”
In Melbourne, Barrère disappeared in the first round of qualifying. Then, back on the challengers circuit in Europe, despite a final in Quimper at the end of January, he had a series of bad results, until this series of four defeats in March-April. In Saint-Brieuc, at the end of March, his trainer Marc Gicquel had sounded the alarm for the first time. “I’m not going to go see him in the locker room because I’m going to run into him, entrusted the latter to Ouest France. We did not feel invested in the field.”
Fifteen days later, the new beating taken at the entrance to Split against Christopher O’Connell broke the camel’s back. This time there was text explanation. Marc Gicquel gave him a prescription, and a severe one. “It’s clear that there are always conversations in a career that are important, explains the player. This is part of it. I was a bit lost. I didn’t train well. I was doing things, but the intentions weren’t there in training. And my coach really fucked me up at that moment, as he knows how to do to me from time to time. It’s very rare, so I know when he does it, it’s not right at all.”
An electric shock. Grégoire Barrère realized that he could no longer continue on the same basis. The effect was drastic. He pursues : “If I continued in this direction, it was not going to do it at all. The next day, we went back to training. I won’t hide from you that the level wasn’t really terrible, but at least I tried. I’ve been training a lot lately. I’m very glad it paid off quickly. If I’m here today, it starts from this conversation, where he was able to get inside me and find the words to make it tick in my head. Honestly, we didn’t think it would pay off so quickly. We said to ourselves: we will try to have a suitable level for the qualifications of Roland.”
Grégoire Barrère at Roland-Garros in 2022.
The Aix heist
But in the end he didn’t need to go through the daunting course of qualifying, since he had the very good idea of having his best week of the year at the beginning of May in Aix-en- Provence, at Arnaud Clément. A final, lost against Benjamin Bonzi, but it allowed him to snag an invitation for the big picture Porte d’Auteuil, thanks to victories against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Pablo Varillas (yes, the one who severely annoyed Félix Auger -Aliassime on Chatrier), Quentin Halys and Pavel Kotov.
This was his sesame for court 14 and his crazy atmosphere in Davis Cup mode, which Barrère enjoyed so much on Sunday. “It’s really a nice court to play, he admits. When you hear the public singing the Marseillaise, chanting your name, it helps, you get a bit of a chill“Split seems far away. Fortunately. Even if the Frenchman remains lucid.”It’s a bit of a heist, he reminds. In Aix, I win against Jo while he serves for the match. So yeah, three weeks ago I didn’t see myself here at all.”
On Wednesday, he will play against John Isner for a place in the round of 16 at Roland-Garros. It would be a big first for him. He has already crossed the first Grand Slam round five times, but never the second. Considering where he comes from, it would have a little implausible side. But the main thing is this common thread found since the rant of Split. “I’m very relaxed assures Barrere. I take things as they come. I don’t mind at all. I play liberated. It’s pretty cool. I’m doing well in training. It was a bit complicated at the start of the season, but in the end, my level increased again, especially my average level. I hope it will pay off for the months to come.” It’s already paying here.
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