Léolia Jeanjean, the bottled itinerary of a pampered tennis boy

Glad she, like Leolia Jeanjan, has come a long way. Qualified for the second round of Roland-Garros, the exquisite prodigy of French tennis finally lives the dream they promised her when she was little. The 26-year-old Frenchwoman, who challenges Czech Pliskova (No. 8 seed) this Thursday, is playing her first Grand Slam tournament with stars in her eyes but without taking herself too seriously either.

“In general, I don’t get too angry, either in life or anything. I try to seize the moment,” said the player after her victory in the first round on Monday against Spain’s Diaz.

Everyone who knows her well will confirm this, Leolia Jeanjean is a normal girl, who likes to enjoy life. “It’s very nice to live with her, she smiles, she says nonsense. She’s not a robot like many players. She knows how to live. If you have to drink a beer, she drinks a beer,” Guillaume Herbach sums up with a smile.

A gifted tennis player considered a star at the age of 12

This tennis coach, based in La Grande Motte, near his parents’ house, knows the player well. Twelve years ago, she was the sparring partner of the one that everyone already saw breaking everything on the women’s circuit. Nicknamed the Tennis Mozart, a sort of female Richard Gasquet, Jeanjean won almost everything among the youngsters.

The boy’s coach when he was 12, Nicolas Pietrowski recalls. “I only had it for a year, but it was like being in a washing machine. That year was amazing. Pressure, stress, expectations … You are already signing contracts with Nike and Babolat. As soon as you went to a place, it was a fair phenomenon. There was really an incredible expectation around him, “said the now-sporting director of the tennis section of the Stade Français.

Injuries, a trip to the US before the comeback

But the beautiful story will stop in adolescence. Three dislocations of the kneecap will take Jeanjean away from the paths of glory. Not to regret his fate, the teenager goes to the United States to play tennis but also to study. In five years she won three diplomas “that have nothing to do” smiles the player. “I did a degree in sociology, a degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in finance investment. So nothing to do, but like my life: it goes a little in all directions, ”laughs Jeanjean.

And it is true that he has to endure to follow in the footsteps of an expert player in the D system. For a time in the RSA, Jeanjean often struggled to reach the end of the month going to play tournaments all over Europe. But that’s also how he met his new coach. “Three months ago, she was in Porto, we had an Airbnb with my player [Dartron], we had a place left, she was all alone so we told her to come. We did a few workouts and then we kept in touch, ”says Thomas Delgado, co-founder of Smash-It Academy, who is training him at his first Roland-Garros.

Covid marks a turning point

Ingenious, “Leo”, as they call her, was also able to count on the kindness of her neighbors. While she was destroying everything on the American circuit, she was stopped in full swing when Covid arrived in 2020. That’s when she called Guillaume Herbach, her former coaching partner, who became a coach at La Grande- Motte and willing to help you for free.

“On May 11, 2020, the first day of confinement, he took the train and we went to my parents’ house in Lauret, a small village in the Gard. Unlike Montpellier where it was not yet possible to play, there we had access to the playing fields. We were able to recycle and then head back to La Grande Motte. The stated goal was to compete in a Grand Slam. Believe it or not, I wanted to give myself two years to give myself a full chance “, says the coach.

“She’s not organized at all like a pro”

In the 1002nd place of the WTA, Jeanjean will go up the track settling in September 2020 in Toulouse Languedoc with Kevin Blary, physical trainer of the tennis section Stade Tolousain. What Hugo Gaston also trains is physically fixed. Even he has yet to convince the player, now the 227th player in the world, to prefer quinoa to McDonald’s more often.

“She is not organized as a professional at all. She is not prepared for the sacrifices that need to be made in relation to the management of a career. She has to make sacrifices in food, sleep, recovery, organization or even “He lives on the right and left, and he lives on his skills, which are very high, but he still has a lot to do to go much higher. Blary who has not been able to reach her protégé since the start of the tournament.

“If it reaches the top 50, I’m not surprised”

However, he, like all those who rub shoulders with Leolia, is unanimous: his talent is immense. And at 26, the best may be starting. “It’s Cinderella. I’m sorry a lot of people say the circle is over, but no, it’s just the beginning. She has to keep going. If she reaches the top 50, I’m not surprised. With this kind of girl, this kind of profile, everything is possible ”, Nicolas Pietrowski is carried away.

For the ascent to continue, be careful not to change Leo’s personality too much. “If we form it in a too rigid framework, it will explode. Take it more and more towards that, okay, but you have to keep your human side and not format it “, says Guillaume Herbach. The only way to make up for lost time in tennis without throwing away everything the champion learned in real life.

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