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'Bring The Energy': Fils Ready To Lead France's Next Generation In Style

19-year-old is top seed at Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM
November 28, 2023
Arthur Fils is the top seed at this week's Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Arthur Fils is the top seed at this week's Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. By Andy West

Arthur Fils knows what he wants from a tennis match.

Whether watching at home or strutting his stuff on court himself, the #NextGenATP Frenchman values style just as highly as he does substance. Fils attributes that belief to a generation of natural-born French entertainers whom he grew up admiring.

“I watched a lot of Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and of course I know Yannick Noah because he won Roland Garros,” Fils told ATPTour.com. “[Style] is so important, because when you watch a tennis match you don’t want to be on the couch and just see one game, one game, one game. You want to see some highlights, and I think with Monfils, Tsonga and the backhand of Richard Gasquet, we saw a lot of highlights.”

The 19-year-old Fils demonstrated some of his own shotmaking ability on Tuesday in Jeddah, where he beat Luca Nardi in his first match as top seed at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. Fils is in Saudi Arabia attempting to cap a breakthrough year, during which he rose from No. 249 to No. 36 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and lifted his maiden ATP Tour trophy in Lyon.

That title run at a clay ATP 250 was one of a series of impressive performances Fils produced in his homeland this season. He reached an ATP Challenger Tour final in Quimper in January and back-to-back semi-finals at indoor ATP 250s in Montpellier and Marseille in February before his Lyon triumph. Some players struggle to handle the expectations of a home crowd. Fils relishes it.

“The home support is incredible,” he said. “Us guys are playing for this kind of energy, for this kind of crowd. When you play at home, everyone is supporting you, everyone is screaming your name. It’s something deeper and I think if I’m French, and I’m going to play elsewhere, it is not going to be the same as when I’m playing at home. We are playing for this kind of stuff.”

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A country steeped in tennis history, France’s wait for a men’s singles Grand Slam champion this year stretched to 40 years. Public expectation for a first male major winner since Noah at Roland Garros in 1983 is something that the likes of Monfils, Gasquet and the now-retired Tsonga have all been burdened with.

None of those players have managed to break the duck, but Fils still views his more experienced compatriots as a vital source of advice as he prepares to lead his country’s charge, alongside fellow #NextGenATP Frenchmen such as Luca Van Assche and Arthur Cazaux, in the years to come.

“They help me a lot in the locker room, on the court and off the court,” said Fils of the older French players on Tour. “I don’t have any pressure [from the public], I just want to be as good as them or better than them, but no pressure.

“My goal in tennis is to enjoy every second I can on the court. To smile in every match that I’m playing and to try my best to win some great tournaments and if I can to go high in the rankings. I will try my best and I have some big goals.”

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While being free-spirited on court is often seen as something of a French trait, Fils is not basing his own approach on any of his ATP Tour colleagues, past or present. He has already shown himself as a charismatic presence who enjoys responding to big atmospheres, and he is ready to push as high as possible in his own unique way.

“My explosiveness and my physical condition [are my strengths],” said Fils. “The way I play helps me sometimes, because the crowd likes to support me a lot in physical battles.

“It’s something in my personality to bring the energy. It’s not important for my game, but important for myself.”

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