Photo : Gérard Piwtorak/Open de Caen
Impossible n’est pas français !
“The word impossible is not French” is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte in a letter he wrote from Dresden on July 9, 1813, to General Marois in Germany. It’s a quote that may have also been uttered by another Frenchman—Jules Marie—two centuries later.
Jules Marie. The hero of this year’s holiday tale set at the Open de Caen in northern France.
Marie is 30 years old and currently ranked World No.821.
He rose to a career-high ranking of No.228 on May 8, 2015, and has spent most of his 11 years on the Tour between No.547 and No.1674. He’s also a frequent hitting partner for French aces at events including Roland-Garros.
So, it’s entirely understandable if you’ve never heard of him.
Jules Marie loves tennis and keeps playing, pressure free. He never misses the Open in his hometown of Caen.
And this year, HE WON!
It may not be an ATP or WTA tournament, but the Open de Caen always manages to attract big names rarely seen at Challenger events. On the women’s side, No.7 Anett Kontaveit and Frenchwomen No.60 Alizé Cornet and No.74 Caroline Garcia competed. So did Frenchmen No.35 Ugo Humbert, No.59 Arthur Rinderknech and No.155 Lucas Pouille, as well as No.39 David Goffin of Belgium.
Marie’s improbable win came when his young countryman Humbert was forced to retire.
“If you would have told me a few days ago I’d be raising the winner’s trophy tonight, I probably would have laughed! Look at the draw, I’m the lowest ranked player in Open,” said the surprise champion after all was said and done.
Take a look at some of the fantastic rallies in Marie’s two-set victory over Goffin (6-1, 6-4) in the semis. The Belgian may have been competing in his first event in over three months, but he remains a regular ATP player and former member of the Top 10 (early 2020).
The list of Open finalists since 2011 features the crème de la crème of French tennis and some pretty big names.
Scroll to 2019, and you’ll see that Jules Marie, then No.711, took on none other than No.35 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who needed three sets to seal the deal.
And just like Tsonga two years earlier, Ugo Umbert was ranked No.35.
On December 18, Jules Marie got his holiday wish.
Shapovalov closes out the year with a big win
All in all, Denis Shapovalov had a solid season, but there’s no doubt he would have liked to end things on a higher note, with another winner’s trophy.
Still, the match he played on December 18 is nice little extra, like an early holiday gift.
At an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, Denis went head-to-head against Rafael Nadal to decide third place and fought his way to a 6-7(4), 6-3, 10-6 win.
Yes, Nadal was coming back from a four-month absence. And, yes, it was an exhibition tournament. But Rafa is Rafa: he very rarely gives less than 100%, regardless of whether he’s up against a member of the elite or his grandma.
Watch a few minutes of the match and you’ll see Shapovalov in full command. The magic from August 2017 in Montréal wasn’t quite there, but the Canadian was in complete control despite losing his grip on a 5-3 lead in the first set. He calmly outmaneuvered an opponent whose aura alone has gotten him out of his share of tight spots.
It’s the type of success that can have a huge impact in the future, even more so than any win against a non-legend at any venue.
Pay close attention to the rally at 2-1, 15-15 in the second set (6:35), when Shapovalov keeps the ball in play with a pretty cool shot.
Tomic vs. Kyrgios: Instafight
Once hailed as the uber-talented next-gen in the post-Hewitt era, Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios—the renegades of Australian men’s tennis—have never really delivered on their tremendous potential and will likely run out of time before they ever do.
While Tomic was one of many promising players, Kyrgios had everything it takes to hope to enter the Top 3: the shots, the power, a devastating serve and above-average tennis IQ. But as I’ve said several times in the past decade, it’s too much talent in a single person. And too little drive to keep it going.
On the cusp of the new season, the two came to blows—on Instagram, of all places.
Of course, long-time fans have learned to wait and see rather than take Tomic’s word for it.
Bernard Tomic was fined three times by Gold Coast police back in 2012 and arrested in Miami in 2015. He’s also got a reputation as a tanker and clocked the quickest loss in ATP history when was defeated by Jarkko Nieminen in Miami in 2014 in 28 minutes, 20 seconds (6-0, 6-2).
When he posted the ask me anything sticker to his Instagram Stories and a fan wanted to know if he thought he was a better player than Nick Kyrgios, Tomic replied: “I obviously beat him in Kooyong, a couple years back. Because I train with him, I pick where he’s serving and I know where he’s at, so that style doesn’t really bother me. Look, I’m more than happy to make it 2–0, whenever he wants. All jokes aside, I wish NK the best. Good luck.”
Nick Kyrgios, who won the National Bank Canadian Junior Open Championship in Repentigny in 2012, burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2014 when he defeated Rafa Nadal with some brilliant tennis and this tweener that rubbed the King of Clay the wrong way, went down in history as the shot of the year in 2014 and now has nearly 4 million views on YouTube.
Tomic achieved his career-high rankings of No.17 (two weeks) and No.18 between October 18, 2015, and January 17, 2016. There hasn’t really been anything to write about since. He’s currently No.259.
As for Kyrgios, he ascended as high as No.13 from October 23, 2016, to January 15, 2017. From January 7 to February 25, 2018, he went back and forth between No.14 and No.17. Since then, it’s been a slow slide down to No.93.
Tomic has four ATP 250 titles, while Kyrgios collected the winner’s trophy from three ATP 250 and three ATP 500 events.
Tomic’s record is 186–182 (50.5%) and Kyrgios’ is 168–103 (62%).
Nick Kyrgios has earned slightly better rankings and a much better win–loss record and leaves Tomic in the dust when it comes to major tournaments.
“[Kooyong,] where people play exhibitions—and yes he did beat me there once,” Kyrgios acknowledged on his own Instagram. “But to say that he’s better? I have more titles. I don’t think he has any big scalp to his name, no Rafa, no Federer, no Djokovic. To say that he’s better than me, it’s a bit of a stretch.”
Nick’s not wrong. According toTennis.com, he’s 21–33 against Top 10 players (8–40 for Tomic). He also took out all three members of the trifecta on his first try.
The numbers don’t lie, and Tomic can’t accuse his countryman of being mean-spirited this time. In a classy move, Kyrgios wrote: “We all know what BT’s capable of and I wish him the best. I ain’t no jealous person, I want success for everyone—so BT, we know what you are capable of brother, let’s see it.”
Read their entire Insta exchange right here.
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