“I have reached a milestone,” assures French hopeful Luca Van Assche

A year after his title in the junior table, Luca Van Assche (18) returns on Tuesday to the clay courts of Roland-Garros. Since then, the Parisian player (381st in the world, highest ranked player in his 2004 birth year) has been learning in the senior circuit for twelve months. For the 2022 edition, he did not receive an invitation for the main tournament, but for the qualifications. For RMC Sport, on the sidelines of the Aix-en-Provence tournament, Van Assche confides in the past months and his ambitions for the future.

One year after this junior title at Roland-Garros, how are you, Luca?

It’s going very well. Physically okay, no injuries. The past few months I have trained well, won competitions. Everything is fine.

How do you rate these last months?

I have passed a milestone since Roland-Garros last year. By winning this title in the juniors I gained a lot of experience and because of that I was able to fully launch myself in the seniors and that went quite well.

Do you feel a special focus on you from the title?

It is certain that we feel a lot more people following you, we see it on the networks. We also see the criticism surrounding French tennis and that really put us on edge with the four of us in the semi-finals of the junior draw (Arthur Fils, Sean Cuenin and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard). Of course I’m better known now than before Roland, but I don’t feel any pressure about that.

This title has opened the doors to certain tournaments, such as the Montpellier tournament, the Paris Masters 1000 or even Monte-Carlo, for which you have received invitations.

It’s for sure that playing such big tournaments and being part of the tournament with the best players in the world, to see the atmosphere, how things are going, how the best evolve in a tournament, that gives me a lot of experience. And to also be able to play in matches against the best players in the world, I can see the road ahead.

Exactly, where do you stand on this path that has yet to be traveled?

I work hard every day and I improve every day. I learn new things every time I play and I try to build on that to make progress.

“Alcaraz and Rune, they are UFOs”

Do you want to make the final table this year?

Roland remains an unforgettable moment in my career and I will always remember it every year I play Roland. It is normal that I have a very strong connection with this tournament and that makes me want to succeed even more this year and the coming years. I will give my best to give the best possible performance. If I ever get the chance to play a main draw at Roland I don’t care about the job as long as I have the chance to play the tournament.

This year Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon will play their last Roland-Garros. Tsonga will stop his career after the tournament. You are part of this younger generation that will be competing in tournaments for the next ten years. Do you want to take the torch?

The four French (with Gasquet and Monfils, editor’s note) were monstrous, they had an exceptional career. We can’t blame them, they have held French tennis very highly for years, it would be my pleasure to take over. It would make me happy to be able to achieve this and I will give anything for it.

Do you sometimes feel like you are compared to incredible players like Carlos Alcaraz or Holger Rune?

There are two players born in 2003, Alcaraz and Rune, who are very strong. They are UFOs as you said. We can only take their example and be inspired by them. We hope to get closer. After blaming us for being late, I don’t think so. If we look at the under-18 ranking, with Arthur Fils, we are the first two. I don’t think we’re late, it’s mostly those who are very, very far ahead.

You are 381st in the standings, is there a ranking target to be in the Grand Slams qualifying nail for example?

I set goals for the game I produce, the intentions I have. If I train well, I am focused on it and give it my all every day, inevitably the work will pay off. I will be able to link the results to be part of the Top 200 and move up by the day.

Interview by Anthony Recho