From our particular correspondent in Tarbes,
Since final August and the departure of his youngest son for the Pôle France de Poitiers, underneath the management of the Federation (FFT), Christian Witz not sees Antonin, 13, besides very sporadically. So the Mulhousien, territorial agent, didn’t hesitate to take a week off to cross France and come and observe the son to the Petits As de Tarbes. This Tuesday, each reply to a handful of journalists on the mezzanine overlooking the Parc des Expositions of the Hautes-Pyrénées prefecture, the place the unofficial World Cup for 12-14 yr olds has been disputed since 1983.
Not sufficient to destabilize the teenager, who has simply subdued the Kazakh Zangar Nurlanuly, seeded n ° 4, on a central court docket the place the Djokovic, Federer, Hingis or Henin fought properly earlier than him. “I didn’t know him, but they told me about him to tell me that he was playing well and that a good fight was waiting for me”, slips the nonetheless frail teenager, fan of Rafael Nadal (winner right here in 2000) , that his rhythm of life shifted in comparison with his age makes mature in accelerated.
” I journey a lot. In Poitiers, every part is taken care of on website: education, coaching, medical,” continues this wonderful 4th grader, already geared up from head to toe by his sponsors, Le Coq Sportif and Head. In Tarbes too, you journey a lot simply by strolling via the alleys. English, Spanish, Russian and even Japanese.
For ten days, till Sunday, the metropolis of 44,000 inhabitants is reworked into the Tower of Babel the place 320 players of 41 nationalities rub shoulders, unfold over 13 lodges. Admission is free, a number of actions regardless of well being constraints, from the climbing wall to the trampoline, however guests are not solely tennis lovers who come to take their eyes off it for not a spherical.
The alternative to identify unknown skills
“There are a lot of guys from business, I saw Yonex, Babolat, Technifibre or even Head”, says Quentin Raynière whereas taking notes, in entrance of a match performed in the Hall Pic du Midi, with a way more Spartan decor than the major constructing. An worker of the American tools producer Wilson, the younger man of 31 years takes care of worldwide contracts for hopes as much as 23 years outdated throughout the world, with the exception of the American continent.
“I attempt to recruit the finest, with very excessive potential. There are additionally different occasions, equivalent to the Orange Bowl [en Floride], however Tarbes is one in all the finest tournaments, if not the finest. “A dozen teenagers in competitors are already in Wilson’s pockets, however the 30-year-old takes a particular look at lesser-known profiles, particularly on this interval of Covid-19 which restricts worldwide journey. “There are Japanese, Chinese, players that we see a little much less. »
Unthinkable to say extra, for worry of being stung the uncommon pearl. However, you do not must be a nice specialist to see that some already have a flattering repute. Like Laura Samsonova, seeded No. 2, adopted by a good dozen individuals, together with members of the Rafa Nadal Academy, in Manacor, the place she spends a number of weeks a yr. Like a few of her colleagues, the 13-year-old Czech blonde, quarter-finalist right here in 2021, already has an agent, Ugo Colombini.
“I watch my players, how they progress, details the Italian based in Monaco, who regrets with a smile having more and more competition. I look a little at the others too, there are quite a few that I discover…” But what’s the use of an agent for such younger athletes? “We grow to be the household advisor for the profession of the youngsters, the coaching, the programming of the tournaments, the industrial half. More and extra, they observe the college from a distance. »
Ksenia Efremova, new Kournikova?
No screaming fits or glittering gold chains. The tennis agent is discreet. But there are certain to be some amongst the espresso or sandwich shoppers who chat round a desk in the central corridor, in entrance of the large display screen which broadcasts the Australian Open in the morning.
“12 agent corporations are current, explains Jean-Claude Knaebel (85), co-founder and co-director, together with his spouse Claudine and his brother-in-law Jacques Dutrey, of the event with 180 volunteers and a finances of 950,000 euros. They come to do their purchasing. But already, at the time, Richard Gasquet [vainqueur en 1999] had been taken by IMG [société d’agents] and Anna Kournikova [titrée en 1994] by Adidas. Today, there may be a 12-year-old Russian woman, Ksenia Efremova, who appears a lot like her, when it comes to nerve and physique. She is already at Nike for garments and at Yonex for rackets. »
— Les Petits As – The Lacoste World Cup (@LesPetitsAs) January 26, 2022
The resident of the Mouratoglou academy in Biot, close to Antibes, proclaims her need to rapidly grow to be world number one. If the participant born in 2009, outclassed by one yr, was taken out from the 2nd round this yr, it belongs to the elite of its class, and is already attracting sponsors and the media.
“In some areas, these young people are already a bit pro, judge Gilles Moretton, president of the FFT present Tuesday in Tarbes with part of his staff. Some will really become it, others will remain good club players. “The tricolor tennis boss does not attack the private academies present in force at Les Petits As and with which there are “bridges”. But he defends a much less elitist logic for the “360 young people followed and accompanied all over France, from 10 to 18 years old” of which essentially solely a half will make a profession.
“When it involves brokers, we are inclined to say to oldsters: ‘Don’t rush. For instance, we met one in all our greatest players, Gabriel Debru (16), together with his household. People got here to flirt with them, and they did not know that world. They have been advised to attend. The authorized service of the Federation is made obtainable freed from cost. And they listened to us. »
Only, non-public or public, the household of an aspiring skilled should take care of an intangible truth: tennis is pricey. “At some level, the League has to [régionale]the committee [départemental], the Federation or sponsors come to assist, slips Moretton. Contrary to the picture we have now, it isn’t essentially wealthy individuals who play tennis. »
A season at 40,000 euros
The Witz household, reassured to have remained underneath federal management with a “double sports and school project”, has thus made its accounts. “Last year, the season cost 40,000 euros,” reveals Christian, Antonin’s father. Crowdfunding was even launched to accompany the Alsatian hope, whose Tarbais course stopped on Wednesday, towards the American Keaton Hance, whereas the Czech Samsonova traced her route.
“It’s not essentially essential to be robust proper now, anticipated Christian Witz on Tuesday. Lots of players have gained right here and by no means achieved something. ” Correct. Who remembers the Spaniard Carlos Boluda, twice titled in 2006 and 2007, whereas of their time, Federer and Djokovic had respectively stalled in the eighth and quarter-finals?
A trophy, however no cash at stake
Nevertheless: if shining in Bigorre is above all not a assure of success with the large boys, the Petits As stay “the place to be” for teenagers in the hunt for glory, as everybody in the tennis world confides. crossings at the Parc des Expos.
And it would proceed, even when Jean-Claude Knaebel and his team will hand over at the finish of this fortieth version. “The tournament was created by a family from Tarbes and we want it to stay in Tarbes for life”, asserts the co-founder of an occasion launched in 1983 “with four nations, a caravan and a court”. Since the occasion has grown, teenage tennis has grow to be extra skilled, however there may be nonetheless no query of “prize money”: “The solely distinction between those that lose in the first qualifying spherical and the winner of the remaining is the trophy. »