Following In Tsonga & Co.'s Footsteps, Van Assche Determined To Carve Own Path

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2023

Following In Tsonga & Co.’s Footsteps, Van Assche Determined To Carve Own Path

Frenchman won Roland Garros Boys’ title in 2021

French tennis currently finds itself in an exciting position today, with the country having 13 players inside the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The second youngest is Luca Van Assche. The 19-year-old is currently seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah and seeking a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The Frenchman has been on the rise in 2023, climbing from as low as No. 152 earlier this year to a career-high No. 63. Van Assche is quick to acknowledge the role those who came before him have played in his development, singling out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.

“When I was young I watched the French players a lot, especially during Roland Garros as it was on TV,” Van Assche told “When I left school I went home and watched Roland Garros on TV. We had a lot of good players so it was incredible to see them and I wanted to be like them, so I started trying to be a professional player.

“I watched a lot of good matches. I remember when Tsonga beat Roger Federer [at Roland Garros in 2013] and at the Davis Cup when Monfils won a lot of matches and when they won the Davis Cup in 2017. To see a lot of French players at the top of the rankings inspires you to continue what they have done.”

After watching France’s biggest stars from the stands, Van Assche has since had the opportunity to rub shoulders with them. The 19-year-old has hit with Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, soaking up advice from both.

“I have practised with Gasquet a few times and I have practised with Simon a bit,” Van Assche said. “It is nice to have these players in France and Paris that I can talk to easily. It is nice for me. It is nice to talk to them easily and good for my career to take their advice.”

Former World No. 6 Simon triumphed at 14 tour-level events, with Monfils and Gasquet, both of whom are still active, winning 28 ATP Tour singles tournaments between them. Tsonga, who retired last year, enjoyed many standout moments in his career, reaching the final at the Australian Open in 2008 and lifting 18 ATP Tour titles.

Like his countrymen, Van Assche has already experienced a magical moment early in his career. In 2021, he overcame good friend and fellow #NextGenATP star Arthur Fils in the Roland Garros Boys’ singles final. It was a victory that he remembers fondly.

“It was an incredible tournament for me, Roland Garros juniors two years ago,” Van Assche said. “It was a great opportunity to show myself on court and win a big title in France and in front of a French crowd. Beating Arthur [Fils], who is one of my best friends on Tour and I have known him a long time. It was a great memory.”

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Expressive, stylistic and passionate are three adjectives that have been associated with French tennis players over the decades. While Van Assche is keen to tap into these traits, he is determined to carve his own path.

“I try to be a good player on the court. I want to be myself. I just want to be comfortable to play my game and win matches,” Van Assche said. “Others don’t have the same style as me on court, but it was nice to see their celebrations on court and I think everyone has their own celebration.”

For all Tsonga, Gasquet, Monfils and Simon achieved in the 21st century, none lifted a major trophy. The last Frenchman to do so was Yannick Noah in 1983, when he triumphed at Roland Garros. Van Assche is determined to break the duck but does not feel the pressure.

“I am playing for myself and I want to enjoy my career,” Van Assche said. “Of course I have high goals and I try to win a lot of matches like they did in the past. Everyone has their own career. They have won many great titles and had great victories and I want to build mine also. [There is] not so much pressure.”

Van Assche will aim to build his career further at the Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held from 28 November-2 December in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The 19-year-old is seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah and in a strong position to qualify.

“It would be a very big thing if I could play at the Next Gen ATP Finals,” said Van Assche, who won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year. “I am also very proud because there are only eight players in the world who can play the event, so it would be a great achievement.”

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