From France To Texas & Back Again, Rinderknech ‘Climbing The Big Mountain’
Arthur Rinderknech was born to play tennis. The Frenchman’s mother, Virginie Paquet, won a round at Roland Garros in 1986. His father, Pascal, is the director of a tennis club in Paris. The fact that he is competing in singles at his home Grand Slam for the third time makes sense.
His journey, however, is not what you might expect.
Rinderknech can’t remember his earliest moments with a tennis racquet in his hand because of how young he was. “I had the racquet in my hand and wanted to hit the ball and that’s how it started,” he told ATPTour.com. “Then I just fell in love with this sport.”
But Rinderknech, now 26, did not prove his generation’s Richard Gasquet. In fact, he did not crack the Top 500 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings until 2018, when he was 23. That is partly because he did not turn professional as a teen. Instead, he spent four years more than 8,000 kilometres from home in College Station, Texas. Rather than a place visited for its tourist attractions, he was on a campus renowned for college football. Rinderknech opted to attend Texas A&M University, where he played college tennis.
“I think I’m a player that is a little different to a lot of the guys,” Rinderknech told ATPTour.com. “The way I made it, going through college [was different], especially as an international, not as an American player. I never played juniors when I was young, I never played for the French junior team when I was young.”
The Frenchman added: “I felt like it was the best fit for me. I wasn’t the best in juniors. I was probably only ranked about fifth, sixth or seventh at my age in France, so I didn’t have much help. I wanted to keep playing tennis, not only go to school, and I could do both of them in the States, so that’s why I decided to go there. It was just a great experience and I kept improving.”
When Rinderknech was young, he went with his family to visit friends in Florida a few times between Boca Raton and Miami, so the United States was not completely new to him when he decided on following the college tennis route. He “loved the country and the culture”. The Gassin-native competed under head coach Steve Denton, the two-time Australian Open finalist.
“I felt like he had some good experience to give me, good teaching. He also had a big game, he was tall and served big, which is what I am trying to do,” Rinderknech said. “So I felt like it was the best fit for me, and of course the school is amazing, so it was perfect for me.”
It was not clear from the moment he stepped on campus that professional tennis was the next step, though. “I had this dream but was not really sure I wanted to do it,” Rinderknech admitted.
In the meantime, he studied business. “I’m pretty interested in business. Sports business, or business in general. I think it’s pretty interesting to know what’s going on. You know, manage people, manage money, stuff around. So I felt like it was the best thing for me to study, and also I think it leaves quite a lot of doors open for the future,” the Frenchman said.
But as Rinderknech’s time in Texas went on, his tennis improved. By the end of his college career, he cracked the Top 10 of the college rankings. When he was a junior at Texas A&M, he knew he wanted to play tennis for a living.
“I felt like I was improving in the States at college. My coach told me I should give it a shot, [that my] level was getting better and better,” Rinderknech said. “Then it’s just step by step. You’re getting better, you feel like you’re part of it and you want to get even better, and keep on climbing the big mountain.”
Rinderknech was a member of the 2022 French ATP Cup team. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Rinderknech’s big breakthrough came in January 2020, when he won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Rennes, France, as the No. 328 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He has not looked back since.
Last season, the Frenchman advanced to his first ATP Tour quarter-final and semi-final, and also cracked the Top 100 for the first time in July. Rinderknech’s season finished late, and by the time he ramped up his training for the new year, he did not have much time to reflect, which he did not mind.
“I feel like I belong where I am now, so I’m fine with that,” Rinderknech said. “I’m playing some big tournaments every week, against some good guys, so I feel fine with that.”
The 26-year-old right-hander, who plays big-serving, aggressive tennis, was a member of this year’s French ATP Cup team and made his first tour-level final in Adelaide, where he lost to Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Now Rinderknech, the man with tennis in his DNA, is competing at the biggest events in the world. This will be the first time he competes at Roland Garros without needing a wild card. But he is not overwhelmed by the spotlight. He just wants to be viewed as “a nice guy” who is trying his best to get better.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Rinderknech said. “I just feel lucky to be a part of the biggest tournaments in the world.”