I'm looking in the Challenger tournament last week in New Caledonia and I see that Marc Gicquel won three rounds. Marc Gicquel is turning 36 in March, the guy's ranked No. 139. His tennis career is wilder and more improbable than any other I've ever read about. The guy didn't even think of playing pro tennis until he was 24. Then he played two years of second-tier French club leagues before embarking on the real tour. He trained alone without a coach. But Gicquel is not alone amongst the French players who play late into their 30's. What was the name of that other middling French player who just retired? Good-looking, strongly-built chap. Then there was Santoro who played to like 38 and Clement and now there's Benneteau, Mahut, and Llodra all playing strong in their 30's. Compare that to the Americans who of course, had Agassi and Connors play late into their 30's, but mostly have guys like Roddick and Sampras who bow out early. Even Vince Spadea, who vowed to make a comeback this year--and then I never heard from him again (he's probably frequenting some Starbucks in LA or Boca Raton and plotting his next Pro Am Championship run)--at 38, has gone blotto. So what is it about the Frenchman? If you look at that New Caledonia draw, there are oodles of young and not-so-young Frenchies plying away at all levels of the pro tour. Why does the game resonate so much in their blood? Maybe because the big sports in France, with the exception of soccer, are individual sports like car racing, skiing and track and field. But in America, once a player hits 30, if he's not a lifer like Johnny Mac, Gilbert or Dr. Dirt, he mostly hits the road.