Whatever happens in the rest of his career, Arthur Fils will remember the 2023 season, and more particularly this week in May. On Saturday May 27, the 18-year-old Frenchman lifted his first trophy on the ATP circuit, going victoriously to the end of the Lyon tournament. In the final, he got rid of Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo (6-3, 7-5), a clay court specialist, but very nervous throughout the match. As a symbol, Arthur Fils was congratulated on receiving the cup by his compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a young retiree from the courts, with whom he shares the same attacking style of play.
"I didn't have a lot of energy coming onto the court. I felt that I was playing well, but from there to telling myself that I was going to win the tournament, it's hard to believe, "he slipped into the microphone of the organizer, a few minutes after collapsing at the ground after the match point, stricken with emotion.
After two semi-finals in Montpellier then in Marseille, Arthur Fils thus confirms his explosion at the highest level, at the same time as his love for the courts of his country. A love that he will have the opportunity to continue to prove next week at Roland-Garros, which he will approach in the shoes of a Top 100 in the world ranking. A first for him.
The native of Bondoufle (Essonne) will probably arrive a little tired at Porte d'Auteuil, after a week full of twists and turns. The youngest player lined up in Lyon, he took advantage of the disqualification of Swede Mikael Ymer in the round of 16 for a gesture of irritation, then the package of the number one seed, the Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, in the next round. But in the semi-finals, he only owed his victory to himself against the American Brandon Nakashima. Crippled with cramps, Arthur Fils resisted at the end of the match to win in three sets (7-5, 4-6, 7-6).
Yannick Noah's successor?
In the final on Saturday, the young man again experienced various emotions. In front of the stands completely won over to his cause, he was the first to take his opponent's serve at 3-2, taking advantage of a catastrophic game from Cerundolo: two forehands in the net, a drop shot not even reaching him and a double fault offered a white break to Arthur Fils, who concluded the set a few minutes later with another immaculate game.
A little caught up in the challenge, the Frenchman had more difficulties in the second round. Offensively, he twice took the service of the Argentinian, but never managed to maintain his advantage against a rival playing better and better. Unfortunately for him, Cerundolo has completely thwarted again in the last two games, notably missing his commitment at 5-5. It was enough for Arthur Fils, who this time knew how to keep his break ahead to conclude the meeting and the tournament.
Roland-Garros finalist for juniors in 2021, and doubles winner the same year, he arrives in Paris with full confidence... Even if the fate did not favor him, by placing on his route the Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (34th in the world) for his first match.
In the event of a new exploit, Arthur Fils could then face the other hope of tricolor tennis, Luca Van Assche, 19 years old. A confrontation that would have everything of a symbol, as we celebrate, this year, the fortieth anniversary of Yannick Noah's victory on Parisian clay.