Arthur Fils knows what he wants from a tennis match.
Whether watching at home or playing on the court, the #NextGenATP Frenchman values both style and substance. Fils attributes that belief to a generation of natural-born French artists whom he grew up admiring.
“I saw 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. “[El estilo] It is very important, because when you watch a tennis match you don’t want to be on the couch and just watch one game and another. “You want to see some highlights, and I think with Monfils, Tsonga and the Richard Gasquet setback we saw a lot of highlights.”
Fils, 19, showed some of his own ability on Tuesday in Jeddah, where he beat Luca Nardi in his first match as the top seed at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. Fils is in Saudi Arabia trying to cap a breakthrough year, during which he rose from No. 249 to No. 36 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Lyon.
That title run at a clay-court ATP 250 was one of the impressive performances Fils produced on home soil this season. He reached an ATP Challenger Tour final in Quimper in January and consecutive semi-finals at an indoor ATP 250 in Montpellier and Marseille in February before his triumph in Lyon. Some players struggle to manage the expectations of the home crowd. Fils enjoys it.
“The local support is incredible,” he said. “We play for this type of energy, for this type of audience. When you play at home, everyone supports you, everyone shouts your name. It’s something deeper and I think that if I’m French and I go to play somewhere else, it won’t be the same as when I play at home. “We’re playing for this kind of stuff.”
France’s wait for a men’s singles Grand Slam champion this year stretched to 40 years. The public’s expectation for a first male major winner since Noah at Roland Garros in 1983 is something that weighed down the likes of Monfils, Gasquet and the now-retired Tsonga.
None of those players have managed to break the drought, but Fils still sees his more experienced compatriots as a vital source of advice as he prepares to lead his country’s attack in the future, alongside other #NextGenATP Frenchmen such as Luca Van Assche and Arthur Cazaux.
“They help me a lot in the locker room, on and off the court,” Fils said of the Tour’s older Frenchmen. “I don’t have any pressure [del público]”I just want to be as good as them or better than them, but there’s no pressure.”
“My goal in tennis is to enjoy every second I can on the court. Smile in every game I play and do my best to win big tournaments and, if I can, reach high in the rankings. “I will do my best and I have big goals.”
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While free spirit on the court is often seen as a French trait, Fils does not base his own approach on any of his ATP Tour colleagues, past or present. He has already shown himself to be a charismatic presence who likes to respond to great atmospheres and is willing to reach as high as possible in his own unique way.
“My explosiveness and my physical condition [son mis puntos fuertes]“Phils said. “The way I play helps me sometimes, because the public really likes to support me in physical battles.
“It’s something in my personality to bring energy. It’s not important for my game, but it is important for me.”