“Here is Hugo!” Thursday, May 26, in the second round of Roland-Garros, the Argentinian Pedro Cachin suffered an acute “gastonitis” on the Suzanne-Lenglen court. A seasonal illness that occurs sometimes in spring, sometimes in autumn, only in Paris and in a very specific area: a tennis court – or “cauldron”, more precisely.

The “vamos Pedro” shouted desperately Thursday by his Argentinian supporters had no relieving effect for the 153rd player in the world. The Parisian public roared their support for the French, regardless of the false notes, chaining the “olé” and the “olas”. After two hours of recital under a rediscovered sun, Hugo Gaston jumped for joy as the winner (6-4, 6-2, 6-4).

Arrived at Porte d’Auteuil with his confidence at half mast, the 74th player in the world suddenly found his tennis in the city that suits him best and on the court that revealed him to the general public, in October 2020. In an unprecedented autumn version of the Parisian Grand Slam, a few spectators (pandemic requires) and many viewers had discovered the Toulouse phenomenon. One meter seventy-three of energy and above all, talent distilled like poison.

A festival of amortizations, lobs, bulging forehands, jumping backhands, the left-hander with the magic whipping knows how to do everything racket in hand. Stan Wawrinka is probably still having a nightmare. Gaston, who had never won a single victory on the big circuit then, had sickened the Swiss in five sets in the 3rd round by inflicting a “bubble” on him to finish. He had done it again in the round of 16 against Dominic Thiem, then world number 3, but the Austrian had ended up having the last word in their marathon match on the Central.

Tombeur d’Alcaraz in Bercy

Behind, this Stade Toulousain supporter did not know how to transform the test. A first round of qualifying in Melbourne and Wimbledon and an entry defeat at “Roland”, Gaston’s start to the 2021 season did not confirm the hopes born at Porte d’Auteuil. Until the Bercy tournament, at the end of October. In a Davis Cup atmosphere, Gaston resumed his love affair with the French public. To the point of traumatizing the young Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who ended up crying in the locker room after his defeat in the round of 16.

Landed this year on the Parisian clay with a single victory in five tournaments on earth, ghostly in Madrid, Bordeaux or Lyon, Gaston has, almost by magic, put his head back in place. “Mentally it was a very tough game because I’m not used to coming into Lenglen as a favourite. These are often tricky matches, but I managed my match and my emotions pretty well, ”he savored Thursday after qualifying for the third round.

How does he explain that the charm works every time on the stands? “I think there is a whole thing, the personality, my style of play also necessarily which is a little different from the others. To have the public pushing me all the time helps. »

On Tuesday, the 21-year-old had already been galvanized by the crowd: “I like to share my emotions with the public, it gave me strength, I used them,” he summed up afterwards. his first-round win over Alex De Minaur. The French had exhausted the Australian (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 [10-4]), after a super tie-break won despite cramps in the thighs.

Saturday, he will rub shoulders with the young Dane who is on the circuit, Holger Rune. The Frenchman knows the 19-year-old, titled in Munich on May 1, well. “We already trained here at the beginning of the week. I played doubles with him this year too, so I know he is a player who plays very hard, he summarizes. He has a lot of wins this year. He won his first title here [among the juniors in 2019]. »

The left-hander knows that he leaves with a significant psychological advantage: no matter the scene, the public is already won over to his cause.

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