Tennis: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ends his career with an admirable defeat

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sneakersJo-Wilfried Tsonga ends his career with an admirable defeat

The former world number 5 said goodbye with a heroic defeat in the first round of Roland-Garros against Casper Ruud (8th), after 3:49 of fight.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fought admirably against Casper Ruud.

AFP

This time it’s over: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, former number 1 in France and number 5 in the world, was eliminated on Tuesday in the 1st round of Roland-Garros by Norwegian Casper Ruud (8th in the world) by 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0). At 37, he puts away his rackets for good, as advertised.

Despite the raucous, unwavering support of the crowd, despite resistance at times worthy of his heyday, Tsonga – injured in his right shoulder late in the game and in tears at match point – is retiring after 17 and a half years on the circuit where he built a of the best French tennis records.

In turn, Ruud will face Finnish Emil Ruusuvuori (61st), winner of another Frenchman, Ugo Humbert (46th).

Tsonga flashes from the past

Before leaving this world stage where he won over the public with his spectacular game, Tsonga gave himself a beautiful last dance: 3h49 of pleasure, offering spectators a spectacle that sometimes reminded us of the great player he was. Flashes of the Tsonga of yore crossed the court like this and made the audience shudder with pleasure until the end: some great serves, powerful forehands followed by the net to conclude with a huge smash, series of huge right slaps that end up overtaking your opponent.

In the tie break of the first set, it was up to the Grand Jo – quite different from the one he had been losing in the first round in recent months – who found himself on the court: powerful, physical, reassembled. If he lost his first two set points, he converted the third, causing an explosion of joy in the audience and a howl of rage from him. But a few games later, Ruud marked the first break of the game to lead 4-3. Vigilant, Tsonga immediately uninterrupted as he countered an attack from Ruud with his devastating forehand. The two men made it to the deciding game, but this time it was Tsonga who cracked.

The third set quickly turned to advantage for the Norwegian, who managed a first break to lead 3-1 and then a second to complete the set. Contrary to what one might fear, Tsonga did not collapse. And he even got the white break to lead 6-5 in the 4th set. After a moving Marseillaise sung by nearly 15,000 people during the change of sides, Tsonga served to push the match into a decisive set. Unfortunately, it was an injured Tsonga who came to serve: suddenly, he couldn’t hit the ball normally enough to serve with a spoon. With a visibly sore right shoulder, which could be a problem for his doubles participation with Richard Gasquet, he let Ruud back at 6-6 and called the physio before playing the tie break. The latter did no miracle, nor did Tsonga. And his final starting point, he played in tears in front of a stadium standing up.

One of the best French tennis records

From his first ATP tour match in September 2004, a win against then No. 6 Carlos Moya, to his defeat at Roland-Garros, Tsonga can boast of being one of only three players to beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak. Djokovic when they were number 1 in the world. He is also one of only three players to win those three, as is Andy Murray in Grand Slams.

Tsonga has one of the best records in French tennis: 18 titles (only Noah did better), 45 wins against the top 10, at least two wins against all members of the “Big 4” (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray), quarterfinals finals played at all four Majors and a final at the Australian Open (2008). Not counting the silver medal in doubles with Michaël Llodra at the London Olympics in 2012 and exploits in the Davis Cup, up to the title in 2017, with his friends Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils, the new musketeers meet in three and soon at two, as Simon will stop at the end of the year.

All Tsonga will miss is this Grand Slam title that crowns the greatest. A title all the more complicated to conquer as he made his career during the reign of the “Big 4”. He got his chance in 2008 when he reached the final of the Australian Open, where he gave in to Novak Djokovic, who won his first of 20 Majors to date.

(AFP)

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