How an Island Outcast Became
a Tennis Champion

Apr 19, 2021
Robert Davis / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Jean-Philippe Fleurian was only fourteen years old when he was rejected by the French Tennis Federation for national team training. The young Fleurian was told that he did not possess the talent, the physical fitness, or the mental capacity to be included in their selection. That may sound a bit harsh, but based on their criteria one could hardly blame the coaches at the Federation. At the time, Jean-Philippe Fleurian was really not very good.

So, how did a player with not enough tennis talent, physical strength or mental toughness end up beating Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi? And along the way achieving an ATP Tour career high ranking of no. 37 singles ranking. And in what must have been a very satisfying feeling for Fleurian being selected to the French Davis Cup teams from 1986-1996 which included two titles (1991 & 1996).

Fleurian’s success can be broken down to three reasons. Geography, methodology, and tennis parent wisdom.

Jean-Philippe Fleurian was raised in a chain of small islands far away in the South Pacific. The islands referred to as New Caledonia, was a French territory better known for its penal colony and convicts, not tennis players. Though he was one of the best tennis players on the island being champion of a penal colony was not on the French Federation’s radar. However, the isolation in a tropical paradise far from the reality of tennis rankings, played a great advantage to little Jean-Philippe. Why? Because Jean-Philippe had no idea how difficult it was to become a professional tennis player. New Caledonia’s remoteness was the perfect seedling bed for Jean-Philippe’s dream to take root and prosper.

Secondly, what the F.F.T could not have known is that their bitter assessment of Jean-Philippe meant to discourage him from pursuing a tennis career, had the opposite effect. Oblivious to the FFT’s negativity, Fleurian carefully examined their evaluation of his abilities. In fact, that assessment would end being the very foundation of Fleurian’s life methodology. Years later, Fleurian would call it the Tiga Method, named after one of the smallest, weakest and least known of the New Caledonia islands. The Tiga Method is based on consistent self-assessment, deliberate target training, and goal setting. The return flight from Paris to Noumea,…
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