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"We have to take the lead now": Rapidly-rising Benjamin Bonzi embracing change of guard in French tennis
The 26-year-old, who cracked the Top 50 at the end of June, meets John Isner in Newport Thursday for a chance to move within two wins of claiming a maiden ATP title.
Published Jul 14, 2022
Ask for the names of top-ranked French players, and Benjamin Bonzi might not be the most-heard answer—yet. But that is starting to change.
The 26-year-old's ranking has been rising rapidly and is now No. 48—making Bonzi the second-highest French player in the ATP after Gaël Monfils. That's a big jump from cracking the Top 100 in 2021, one that has fueled him to want even more.
"I'm having more maturity, I'm learning, I'm more confident on the tour. Was maybe not the case, a year ago,” Bonzi told TENNIS.com in an interview from Newport, where he is playing the ATP 250 grass-court event this week. "It was for me a huge achievement. I finished the season Top 60. So I'm surprising myself every day.
"I took experience on the tour, I played a lot of challengers, a lot of wins. This year, I played a lot of 250s. It was not the same—I had to learn to be consistent on the tour and to be ready for the level. I'm still learning but it's better every week, getting victories. I think I do everything better than 2021."
"It's a surprise for me to be now in the Top 60, but I need time to learn, I need time to process things, so maybe is going to be Top 30, Top 20, I don't care, just work and try to progress.”
Recently, he has upset current and former Top-20 players such as Aslan Karatsev, Lorenzo Sonego, Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov.
His rise comes at a good time for French tennis, just as stalwarts like recently-retired Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and soon-to-be-exiting Gilles Simon have passed the torch. That produces more attention and scrutiny for younger players like Bonzi, but he doesn't want to back away.
“It's tough to play in France, a lot of people expect a lot from you, you have to be good,” he said. "There was a very good generation in France, with Tsonga, Monfils, [Richard] Gasquet and Simon. We have to take the lead now, I don't know if we will do semis or finals but you have to take it as good.”
While he's now having an impact on tour, Bonzi's breakthrough goes back further than that.
"I changed a lot of things three years ago,'' he said. "We changed a lot of things in practice. Now it's working, so we don't have to change many things, we're just continuing what we do. For sure, we have to improve many things, but we have [the] same work ways."
He's still working on his game, especially his serving.
"I try to get more consistent with it, try to get aggressive on the first shot. I know my return is good, I know I need to be more aggressive, we try to work on this,” said Bonzi, who is coached by Lionel Zimbler. "I’m used to long rallies, but we're trying to reduce it and be more aggressive during the point.
Bonzi is getting to do more of that on grass this week, saying it suits his game. Next up at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open is a quarterfinal meeting with four-time Newport champion John Isner.