This Monday, the ATP rankings inducted a Frenchman into the top 100 for the 81st time. The lucky winner is Constant Lestienne (90th), finalist in the Segovia Challenger last week. The reward of a very good start to the Challengers season (two titles in Malaga and Pozoblanco, a final, five semi-finals and nine quarters) for a boy who has come a long way.
The general public may have already heard of him in 2016, when he was suspended for seven months by the ITF for taking part in sports betting. Important detail, he had bet on matches that did not involve him. Then 164th in the world, he tumbled to 450th place. So we had to rebuild. A term all the more accurate since, even if it does not easily evoke the subject, Lestienne suffers from a kind of rheumatoid arthritis, a genetic disease inherited from his father, which causes him pain and forces him to undergo treatment. for life. His body has long been his worst enemy and it is on this area that his coach Julien Varlet, a former pro who had to end his career because of hip problems in 2005, insisted. “At the end of last year, he came to the French Touch Academy to do some real preparation. With the physical trainer Thomas Scherlé, we concocted a very dense program for him »explains Varlet.
“It’s the first time he can go on for so long in his career”
In fact, this is the first time that Constant Lestienne, at 30, can have a real season without going through the infirmary box. For his coach, that changes everything. “It’s the first time he can go on for so long in his career. And the results follow. Above all, it gives him self-confidence. He’s starting to realize that he can play really well. »
Constantly stopped by injuries, Lestienne ended up not really believing in himself. Varlet’s job was to reverse the trend and make him understand that he had to professionalize. “With more structure around him, he manages to chain results. » Long without a coach, Constant Lestienne approached the French Touch Academy at the end of 2020, to benefit from occasional helping hands. Little by little, a strong relationship was forged with Varlet who convinced him to structure himself better. “And since the beginning of the year, we have been working more closely and we should reach a new milestone in September. »
He can thus develop his atypical game. Varlet again: “Constant will never be a metronome that hits hard on both sides. He has a creativity that hampers his opponents. He does things the others don’t. He does not play on his power, but on his game intelligence. Not for nothing he is nicknamed ” the magician “ on the circuit.
“He lacked a regular speech, which could have given him confidence. Today, he realizes that with more structures around him, he manages to chain “
Regarding its late hatching, Varlet is hardly surprised. “I think that apart from Alcaraz or Musetti who are extraterrestrials, most players arrive later on the circuit. He realized that he can play really well. For years, he lacked a regular speech that could have given him confidence. He sailed a little by sight. Today, he realizes that with more structure around him, he manages to chain tournaments and get results. At 30, he matures and manages to define his goals. Everything is falling into place slowly ».
But, even within a structure, Lestienne remains atypical. His coach confirms that training based on infinite repetition of scales is not his thing. “He needs fun, it’s not his style to hit the ball for five hours. I have to get him to work without him realizing it, it’s a great challenge for a coach. So he’s working on things he wasn’t doing a while ago, and he’s not wearing himself out mentally. »
The Australian Open in sight
Finally aware of his potential, Lestienne has set himself a major objective: to enter directly into the table of the next Australian Open. A goal within reach if it maintains the current course. “If he wants to have fun on an ATP 500, no problem. But he must keep in mind the objective of having enough points to enter the Australian Open. He must not burn his wings thinking that he can enter all the ATP 250s. The risk is to do three tournaments and three first rounds. Financially, it is interesting, yes. But we scored zero points and three matches in three weeks., warns Varlet. Moreover, until the US Open, the program will be mainly devoted to the Challengers to continue to take the maximum points. “And behind, it would be necessary to stabilize the classification to be able to play the four Grand Slams in the season. It would be exceptional. But above all, I want him to make the most of the present moment.assures the coach.