Philippe Saint-André, rugby coach

The Roland-Garros tennis tournament kicks off on Sunday, May 22nd. The opportunity to meet sports or entertainment personalities who could have made a career in tennis and participated in the tournament, before changing paths, such as Philippe Saint-André, player and coach of the XV of France.

Philippe Saint-André, the Montpellier Hérault rugby coach, began his sporting career with tennis. © / Xavier LEOTY

He really didn’t stop playing tennis. A few days before the start of the Roland-Garros tournament, Philippe Saint-André entrusts his first steps in the sport, a racket in hand. The nickname “PSA” was a player and coach of the XV of France. An international rugby player, former captain of the French national team (1990-1997), he coached the blues from 2011 to 2015. But it was with tennis that he began his sporting career. Entrust Bertrand Queneutte of France Bleu Hérault.

5 min

“Rather Borg than McEnroe”: Listen to the full interview with Philippe Saint-André.

By Bertrand Queneutte

“I played rugby, but my number one sport was tennis”

I started playing tennis and it ended badly because I ended up being a rugby player! “ Philippe Saint-André jokes. It was with his family, following in his parents’ footsteps, that he discovered the pleasure of the sport by hitting the yellow ball: “My father was the president of a tennis club. “ he remembers. “My mother was a tennis instructor at another club and at a very young age, I played tennis, until I was 14-15. I played rugby, but my number one sport was tennis.“Philippe Saint-André is taking part in the French Chicken, Junior, Minimum, Cadet Championships. He is one of the best of his time at the Romans-sur-Isère club in Dauphiné Savoie.

In his childhood and adolescence, he lives and dreams of Roland-Garros: “Back then, the French championships were held at Roland-Garros, so we slept in tents, we played at Roland-Garros. I was a ball boy in the Davis Cup final in Grenoble, when it was Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte. I really enjoyed watching Roland Garros, going there, and still going, “he says.In my room I had more tennis posters than rugby because it was also a family sport.. “

A “crocodile” rather than an “attacker”

His models of the time? “I was more Björn Borg than John McEnroe! I was more of a clay player. “ remembers Philippe Saint-André. “I arrived with the bobsleigh and the drum. And the longer it lasted, the more chances it had of winning! I put in a lot of effects, I got the ball back a lot, I was a good passer for someone going up the net. In slang, I was more of a crocodile than a striker, while in rugby I was more of a striker than a defender.“But the future of rugby is clear on its level:”You have to be honest, I wouldn’t have passed the course because at some point you have to have an exceptional arm and I didn’t have an exceptional arm. I was a good second-team player, but no more. “

The racket did not move away

But one day, he approaches a fight on a tennis court: “We were playing a qualifying match for the Roland-Garros youth team on clay. He should have been 4-4 in the third set. I lob and the opponent fouls and steps on the blank line. I said, what do we do? Are we fighting? Do we plaster? And that cooled me down a bit, it hit me hard. I thought maybe it was more for a team sport than an individual sport“Philippe Saint-André decides. So he opts for rugby, but he admits that tennis has brought him a lot.”It has often been said that I was very lucky because I intercepted, because I had a lot of expectation, reaction. The eye, as they say. But this is the tennis that developed it for me. “, believes Philippe Saint-André. “About vision, about effects, about taking information … tennis is an exceptional school and it brought me a lot to rugby and especially to a high level, like managing pressure and stress.. “

However, the racket is never stored in a corner. With the confinements, Philippe Saint-André returned to tennis and quickly found a good level: “When there was a gap and we were stuck in the first confinement, I had a neighbor who had a tennis court and he played every day. I took over a license. Then I went back to 15.3. I quickly regained the level between four tournaments. As soon as summer arrives, the sun rises, I play. There are those who like golf, squash, and whenever I can, I have a great time retouching a racket. “

Although there again he remains lucid about his talents: “I know my President Mohed Altrad (owner of Montpellier Hérault rugby) he’s crazy about tennis and plays doubles every Sunday. I’m scared to go play against him because I don’t want to get mad at him!” (River).

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