French Teen ‘Gio The Giant’: Big Serve, Shy Spirit
Standing tall at 6’7” and boasting a hefty serve, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard’s personality may not exactly reflect his heavy-hitting style of play.
“I'm shy. You see a big tall guy, but I'm very shy,” Mpetshi Perricard told ATPTour.com. “I've always been shy since I was born. I'm not shy with my friends but with other people I am.”
Though his personality may be somewhat reserved, the 19-year-old’s serve is quite the opposite. Earlier this month, the Frenchman lifted his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title after firing 21 aces in the Leon Challenger final. The Lyon native held his nerve to escape Argentine Juan Pablo Ficovich 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 7-6(3). The #NextGenATP star played five tie-breaks across his semi-final and final in Mexico.
“I was really happy after the match. It was my goal to win my first Challenger this year as early as possible,” Mpetshi Perricard said. “I did everything great that week. I was nervous all day before the final, because the final was at six. I was really nervous in the morning and after my first training. During the match, it was very stressful. So much emotion. I was not in a good position in the second tie-break, losing 0/3 and 2/4. I was really proud to win.”
The teenager is among the next crop of promising French tennis players. Luca Van Assche, 18, is a three-time Challenger champion and the youngest player in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The 18-year-old Arthur Fils won the Oeiras-2 Challenger in January, a month prior to reaching back-to-back tour-level semi-finals in Montpellier and Marseille.
Mpetshi Perricard, Van Assche, and Fils are the first French teen trio to claim Challenger titles in a single season since 2005: Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. This isn’t the first time the #NextGenATP Frenchmen have been making progress together.
In 2021, ‘Gio’ made his first breakthrough as he partnered with Fils to win the Roland Garros boys’ doubles title. That same week, Fils got the better of him in the boys’ singles semi-final en route to a runner-up finish (l. Van Assche).
Mpetshi Perricard is drawing inspiration not only from his French tennis idols Tsonga and Monfils, but also his colleagues Van Assche and Fils, who have already made a splash on the ATP Tour.
“Luca trains at the Federation too. We talk about everything, he's my friend,” Mpetshi Perricard said. “I was really happy to see him breaking the Top 100. I watched some of his matches in Banja Luka, like against Stan Wawrinka. [Luca] plays really good, I'm very happy for him. I would like to get into the Top 100 as soon as possible like him. Arthur as well, he did very good at Montpellier and Marseille. They're proving everything is possible. I want to try my chance and do what I can.”
‘Gio’, who is No. 231 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, will next be in qualifying action at the Prague-2 Challenger. If he has downtime away from training, you may catch the teen following basketball.
“I'm watching the NBA playoffs, especially the Los Angeles Lakers,” Mpetshi Perricard said. “I'm a big fan of Lebron James. I was a fan since I started watching the NBA. I've followed him during his whole career. I like his dedication to the work, to do all the work outside the basketball court. When he's under pressure, he's always there and tries to help the team as much as he can.”