WSO Player Update: Julien Benneteau
(Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of updates on players who either played in last year’s Winston-Salem Open or have committed to playing in this year’s tournament.)
By John Delong
Julien Benneteau won the collective hearts of Triad tennis fans as he made an amazing run to the finals of the inaugural Winston-Salem Open last August.
Now, Benneteau needs all the good vibes that can be sent his way as he recovers from a fractured right elbow suffered in Monte Carlo.
The 30-year-old Frenchman slipped and sprained his right ankle during his third-round match against Andy Murray, then fell awkwardly on his right arm as he tried to break his fall.
He told reporters in Monte Carlo that he will likely be out through the rest of the clay-court season and won’t be able to play at Roland Garros. He is hoping that he will be healthy in time for the London Olympics in July.
"I think it’s finished," Benneteau said, speaking of his chances of playing Roland Garros.
The injury derails what has been an amazing run for Benneteau in the months since the inaugural Winston-Salem Open.
He was ranked No. 113 in the South African Airways ATP rankings when he got to Winston-Salem last August, and had to win three qualifying matches just to make the Main Draw.
He has since climbed 86 spots and is currently ranked a career-high No. 27.
For sure, Benneteau’s week in Winston-Salem proved to be a springboard for his success since.
He played nine matches in eight days, falling just short of his first career ATP World Group title when John Isner prevailed in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Along the way were two dramatic wins, a 3-6, 7-6 (9), 6-2 victory over Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarterfinals and then a 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6) win over Robin Haase in the semifinals when he fought off two match points.
"For me, a good week," he recalled during the Sony Ericsson Open. "I was down in the ranking, in the qualies, and I made it through to the finals so it was a good tournament for me."
Even though he was drained, Benneteau continued to ride the momentum at the US Open the following week, knocking off 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro in the first round and making it to the third round before losing to Andy Roddick.
He reached the final at a Challenger in Mons, France in early October, then won the following week in Rennes.
He continued his excellent play at the start of 2012 by reaching the final at Sydney, beating Feliciano Lopez and Marcos Baghdatis along the way before losing to Jarkko Nieminen. He reached the third round at the Australian Open, made it to the semifinals in San Jose, and reached the third round at the Sony Ericsson in Miami.
Along the way, he also represented France in two Davis Cup ties, playing singles in a first-round win against Canada and then playing doubles in a quarterfinal loss to the United States.
While the fractured elbow puts all of his schedule on hold, there’s no doubt that he would like to return to Winston-Salem. And assuming he is healthy by then, he’ll need as many matches as possible again going into the US Open and will have points to defend.
He was non-commital during the Sony Ericsson Open, but spoke highly of the Winston-Salem Open.
"Yeah, maybe (he will return)," Benneteau said. "I will see my calendar. But of course I have good memories there. We players, you know, we love to come back to places where we have success and we have good feelings. So maybe I will go back there.
"I was treated very nice. It was a good tournament, a good crowd, a good set of courts. So I really enjoyed my time there."