How Leolia Jeanjean came to the tennis world scene

Msome things can blow the mind of a tennis pro. Like when he’s so nervous the morning before the biggest fight of his career that he wakes up with a stomach ache. Or if he has to wait hours for his match because it is raining first and a match planned in advance on the same course drags on forever. Or if he gets suffocated while drinking during the fight, the water on his top snorts and loses concentration. Or if it goes surprisingly well against a very popular competitor for a long time, but the racket strings break the moment you play your own match ball.

Leolia Jeanjean has suffered through each of these complications that no player in the world would wish for. In a single day, in a single match, in her first Grand Slam tournament ever.

Extraordinary sportsman’s life

Now one could dismiss such adversities as the French with the eloquent but hitherto largely unknown name experienced in Paris, as trivialities that occur at a major tennis tournament. If not Jeanjean, as so often in his extraordinary sporting life, had ignored everything and confidently thrown two clearly better-off women out of the competition one after the other.

In her Grand Slam debut, she hardly gave Spaniard Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, number 45 in the world, a chance. In the second round, Jeanjean beat the Czech Karolína Plíšková, night on the world rankings, even temporarily the very best in 2017 and last year in the Wimbledon final, astonishingly clear. She lives a dream, says Jeanjean: “I do not know what is happening here, how it is all possible.”

There’s no other way to put it: Leolia Jeanjean came out of nowhere. She only started playing tennis in earnest again at the beginning of last year. At the time, she was ranked 1180 in the world, had two bachelor’s degrees in sociology and criminal law and a master’s degree in finance under her belt, but almost no money to travel to the smallest tournaments.

She had to count from week to week. If there was a lower-class tournament in the ITF series in a French provincial town, she went there. If she lost several times in a row, she ran out of money and had to stay home for two months. But if she won a few hundred euros in prize money, she could also go to events abroad. Thanks to one success or another and a few world ranking points, she managed in one year to get out of the no-man’s-land of the rankings and enter the glamorous world of Roland Garro, where the winner will receive 2.2 million euros and 2000 points.

Thanks to Wildcard

But to get into the main draw in Paris as number 227 on the world rankings, she needed a free ticket from the French Tennis Federation, a so-called wild card. The French experienced a tennis spring in Paris in the advanced tennis age as a 26-year-old. To enter the third round, where she will meet the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu this Saturday (at 11.00 on Eurosport), she has already pocketed almost 126,000 euros – about three times as much as she has earned in total in the previous 17 months.

The 70 world rankings she got are also good for her, as moving up the rankings will give her the chance to get involved in professional tournaments on the WTA Tour in the future. “But the circle only closes when I have played all four Grand Slam tournaments that I dreamed of as a child,” says Jeanjean.

“Wanted to give me another chance”

The wildcard she received for the Paris clay court tournament is something of a postponement from the French tennis federation FFT. Because when Jeanjean suffered a knee injury as a 15-year-old top talent and had to take a break, FFT canceled her coach and her sponsor Nike canceled the ten-year contract. The end of a promising career seemed closed.

As an 18-year-old, she went to the United States to study, playing a little college tennis with the slightest hope of a late professional career. “I have always loved tennis and would not regret my choices,” Jeanjean said. “I would give myself another chance.”

With their playful abilities, the French do not stand out from the crowd of professional women. But she hits sensitive stop balls and knows how to throw opponents out of rhythm. What sets Jeanjean apart above all is her mentality of being able to fight her way through and get on the tennis world stage at a roundabout: “My life experience helps me stay cool, keep my distance and give my best in important moments. ”Even if the string breaks.

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