At three years and a handful of months of the Paris Games, where is the sporting Francophonie? The answer is nuanced. But in tennis, it moves on. For nearly two years, it has been supported by a group, the Association of francophone tennis federations (A2FT), launched at the 2019 edition of the Roland-Garros tournament.
Its president, Daniel Chausse, former vice-president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), explained to FrancsJeux the mission, the challenges and the first achievements.
FrancsJeux: More than a year and a half after its creation, where is the A2FT today?
Daniel Chausse: It is doing well. The association currently has 34 members, and will soon reach around 40. But its development has not been helped by the health crisis. The strength of the French-speaking tennis community lies above all in the group. It is based on the collective, on a common vision that goes beyond national issues. For that, its actors need to see each other, to find each other, to meet. Only frequent relationships will allow this collective ambition to be nurtured. The pandemic has driven us away. The A2FT general assembly must be held every year as part of the Roland-Garros tournament. But, in the second year of the association’s existence, in 2020, the test was postponed until the fall. And it was not possible to hold our general assembly. Without the health crisis, we would have invited young ball collectors from all over the French-speaking world to Roland-Garros. Due to the pandemic, we have not yet been able to promote the collective with institutions.
What does the Francophonie currently represent in tennis?
After a little over a year of existence, the A2FT brings together 34 national federations. Its beginnings are very promising. Its mission is clear: to better organise the reality of French-speaking tennis, to integrate it in a dynamic at the service of the development of our sport. The idea settles, it makes its way. Tennis institutions, including the International Federation (ITF) and the African Confederation (CAT), know of its existence. Now they need to recognise us. We are not only a geographical and sporting declination.The Francophonie of tennis must also be used to create cultural platforms. Through tennis, we want to promote cultural, social and economic inclusion.
Does the Francophonie constitute a network in tennis today?
Not yet. But we are going to create it. The world of tennis is dominated by the influence of the Anglo-Saxons. They have been organised longer than us. Of the four Grand Slam lifts, only one, Roland-Garros, takes place in a French-speaking country. At the ITF, the Anglo-Saxons are dominant. But the members of the French-speaking network have in common the desire to develop tennis, especially in Africa, by going beyond its still sometimes elitist image. They want to reach a wider audience. They want to attract the media. I dream of one day seeing an African win Roland Garros. The impact would be considerable.
What is the A2FT’s initiative, since its conception, that is most important to you?
The most important initiatives are those which involve several countries in a transversal way. I am thinking in priority of the two tennis academies that we are helping to create in Africa, in Benin and Senegal. The first will concern the youngest, the second the players from high school. In both cases, they will facilitate practice and detection, especially on clay, the symbolic surface of the Francophonie. Young African hopefuls will be able to train and continue their studies. But these two academies will also be used for training in sports professions, particularly in the digital field. And they will offer cultural activities, to go beyond the sole framework of sport. I have just returned from a trip to these two countries. In Benin, the project is the object of immense enthusiasm. In Senegal, the government donated the land, about forty kilometers from Dakar. The tennis academy equipment is part of the Youth Olympic Games in 2026.
What is the project or action that you consider to be a priority?
At this stage, the tennis academies in Benin and Senegal are the priority. They focus all our ambitions: leisure and high level, academic training and a cultural component. And they are transversal. We are also planning to create Roland-Garros clubs in sub-Saharan Africa, including four in Côte d’Ivoire. But all this requires a willingness of the new management team at the French Tennis Federation (FFT) to continue this policy of engagement. The A2FT needs the expertise of the FFT and the Roland-Garros brand to support its 33 other national federations.