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- Merci, Jo: The Joie De Vivre Of Jo-Wilfried Tsongaon May 24, 2022 at 3:42 pm
Joie de vivre is a French phrase that means joy of living. It represents someone who radiates happiness and spreads it to those around them. Few players from this generation have embodied joie de vivre more than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman retired following his first-round loss against Casper Ruud at Roland Garros, completing a memorable 18-year-career in which he climbed as high as No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. But the 37-year-old’s unbridled enthusiasm for tennis and the fans he has aimed to entertain has left a mark that will last for years to come. “I always said one of my goals was to inspire kids, inspire other people. I hope I did that during my career,” Tsonga told ATPTour.com. “I have been inspired myself by other sportsmen and I know how you feel. I know how you feel when you are a fan of somebody or you admire somebody. It’s a nice feeling.” There have been signature celebrations in tennis, including Andre Agassi blowing kisses to the fans, Petr Korda’s famous scissor kick and Novak Djokovic sharing his heart with every corner of the crowd. But nobody has had a dance quite like Tsonga’s post-match celebration. Whether it was a 6-2, 6-2 win in an hour or a four-hour slugfest, Tsonga skipped across the court with his arms in the air and his thumbs pointing back at himself, punctuating his moment with a leaping fist pump reminiscent of a boxer launching a right hook into the air. No matter how tired the Frenchman was, it was a sign of how much the victory had meant. Tsonga gave everything in every match, and that is why fans love him. “For me it was really important to be different. I was born different a little bit. I’ve always been a little bit different than others in France,” Tsonga said. “For me, it [counts] really positively and trying to do things differently was for me something positive. I always try to go this way.” Photo Credit: Getty Images Tsonga first stepped under the spotlight as a 19-year-old in 2004. A standout who reached World No. 2 in the juniors and won the 2003 US Open boys’ singles title, his first ATP Tour match came at the 2004 China Open in Beijing against former World No. 1 Carlos Moya. A straight-sets win was a sign of things to come. The Frenchman’s biggest breakthrough did not happen until more than three years later, though. Entering the 2008 Australian Open, World No. 38 Tsonga had not reached a tour-level final. He changed that in grand fashion, defeating four Top 20 players — Andy Murray (R1), Richard Gasquet (R4), Mikhail Youzhny (QF) and Rafael Nadal (SF) — to become the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since World No. 54 Marcos Baghdatis at the 2006 Australian Open. That accomplishment holds today. It was during this dream fortnight that Tsonga showed he was capable of taking it to the best of the world on the sport’s biggest stages. “I was playing very fine, very good, but not for [beating] Tsonga tonight,” Nadal admitted after winning just seven games in their semi-final. That tournament propelled Tsonga into the Top 20 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time. He would drop from that elite group for just one week over the next decade, reaching World No. 5 in 2012. Tsonga claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in front of his home fans at the Rolex Paris Masters in 2008, helping him qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals — then the Tennis Masters Cup — for the first time. It was against the world's best players that the Frenchman found a way to raise his game to its greatest heights. He involved the crowd and fed off fans’ energy to put the sport’s legends to the test. Tsonga is one of just three players (also Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro) who have beaten Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer when they were World No. 1 and is also one of just three players (also Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych) who have defeated the legendary trio at the majors. Former World No. 3 Marin Cilic, who faced Tsonga nine times, praised the Frenchman. “He is a very consistent player and loves the big occasion,” Cilic told ATPTour.com. “He never gets overwhelmed by the occasion, crowd or playing against the top guys. I would say he has performed quite well on the big stage.” The greatest example of this came at Canada’s Masters 1000 event in 2014. Then a three-time Nitto ATP Finals competitor, it was already clear Tsonga was one of the best players in the world on his day. But his efforts in Toronto brought that to a whole new level. Photo Credit: Getty Images The fan favourite earned consecutive wins against Djokovic, Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Federer to lift his second Masters 1000 trophy. Tsonga became the first to defeat four straight Top 10 players at a Masters 1000 event since Guillermo Canas in 2002. The Frenchman’s mixture of athleticism, power — off the serve and baseline — and competitive spirit posed problems for opponents of any style. It also helped him capture 18 ATP Tour titles, with 10 coming in France. Tsonga motivated future generations from around the globe, but especially kids at home. An example is 23-year-old Ugo Humbert, the current French No. 2. “Jo for me was one of my idols, one of my favourite players. When I was young, he was a source of inspiration for me and I tried to do [things] like him,” Humbert said. “I went to the Federation at 12 and I knew that he was there, so for me it was exceptional. I was following all his matches.” Late in his career, Tsonga struggled with injury and was unable to maintain the same consistency he did for a large part of his career. But he has never let slip his joie de vivre, entertaining fans every step of the way. One of this year’s feel-good moments came at the Open 13 Provence, where Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tsonga shared a memorable moment at the net following their second-round clash. Tsonga had lost in straight sets, but he had a big smile on his face as he embraced the Canadian, another young player who idolised him. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/Open 13 “Most of the young guys [who are] under 25, when I play against them, when they come to the net they say, ‘Ah, I was a big fan!’” Tsonga said, cracking a laugh. “Even when they beat me hard, they say, ‘We were a big fan’... This is nice.” Auger-Aliassime said of Tsonga: “He was an idol of mine growing up… just to have somebody that maybe is similar to you, has a similar story, to see him on TV, to see what he was doing, it was inspiring to me.” Tsonga won 467 tour-level matches — 45 against Top 10 opponents — but that was not always most important to him. “I have some trophies I can’t even remember what happened on court and everything,” Tsonga said. “But I’ll always remember who told me that I inspired them.” Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images The home favourite fittingly brought his magical ride of a career to a close at Roland Garros in front of his home crowd. As much as he wanted to thrill them with one last deep run, sharing that moment with the Parisians and fans watching throughout the world was rewarding enough. In the fourth-set tie-break against Ruud, the fans gave Tsonga a deafening standing ovation as the players changed ends. The Frenchman was visibly emotional before serving the final point of his career. After the match, he got down on his knees and touched his forehead to the Parisian clay. Tsonga left his mark on tennis, and he took one last piece of the sport with him. “We wait to have all these problems to enjoy it, because we know that one day it’s going to stop. To be honest I feel a little bit like a junior now. Every time I’m going on court I’m just happy,” Tsonga said. “I have to smile even if sometimes it’s difficult, I have a little bit of pain. I just enjoy it, try to take every minute on court as a gift and that’s it.”
- Tsonga Falls In Roland Garros Swan Songon May 24, 2022 at 2:47 pm
All good things must come to an end. On Tuesday, the 18-year career of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came to a close at Roland Garros. With a vocal Court Philippe Chatrier crowd cheering him on that included close friend Gael Monfils, Tsonga fought valiantly against eighth seed Casper Ruud before the Norwegian prevailed 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-2, 7-6(0). The 37-year-old soaked in a standing ovation for his storied career that includes 18 ATP Tour titles, a runner-up showing at the 2008 Australian Open and a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 5. “It’s tough for me and all the players that you’re stopping. You’ve been an inspiration to me and so many of the other players, so thank you for the memories,” said Ruud, holding back tears in his on-court interview. "[I have] so many good memories watching Jo on TV. He’s such a great guy [and] nice person on and off the court. He’s a good example of what a player should be.” Trailing 0/6 in the fourth-set tie-break, an emotional Tsonga fought back tears as they switched sides, then broke down as he stepped to the line to serve. Both men embraced at the net after a final Ruud forehand winner ended play after three hours and 49 minutes. The Court Philippe Chatrier crowd rose in unison as an emotional Tsonga waved to them before kneeling down on the court. With his family and children watching on court along with fellow French players Richard Gasquet, Benoit Paire and Monfils, he then took in a moving on-court ceremony that celebrated his career achievements. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all sent video messages for the ceremony that praised Tsonga as a player and person. “He’s one of the most charismatic players to play the game,” said Djokovic. “He brought a lot of attention to the sport because of his charismatic game style. It’s a tremendous loss to men’s tennis, [but] he has made his mark on our sport.” Injuries limited Tsonga to just 16 tour-level events since the beginning of 2020, but he was able to draw on ample experience in big matches throughout his career. He stayed with the Norwegian throughout the first set, trading service holds before sprinting to a 6/4 lead in the tie-break. Although Tsonga let slip his first two set points, he brought the crowd to its feet by converting on a third opportunity at 7/6. The second set also went to a tie-break and it appeared that Tsonga might build a two-set lead after gaining a 2/0 mini-break advantage with a drop shot winner. But as Ruud steadied his baseline game, Tsonga lost control of his and began leaking errors. Ruud took seven of the next nine points and struck a strong serve at 6/4 to level the match. Energised by his escape, last week’s Gonet Geneva Open champion began opening up on his potent forehand in the third set to control the baseline rallies. Ruud broke Tsonga at 2-1 in the third set with a crosscourt forehand winner and secured an additional break at 5-2 to take a commanding advantage. [NEWSLETTER FORM] Tsonga was forced to serve to keep his career alive at 4-5 in the fourth set, but bravely managed to hold on the back of aggressive baseline play. Buoyed by a crowd firmly on his side, he played a vintage game at 5-5 and broke Ruud to love. But while Ruud still looked fresh as the match surpassed three-and-a-half hours, Tsonga’s body began to break down. The pace on the Frenchman’s shots slowed considerably as he dropped serve at 6-5. Tsonga then received a medical timeout for treatment on his right shoulder before the start of the tie-break. Although there were moments of Tsonga flair in the final points that included an improvised left-handed forehand volley, Ruud swept through the tie-break without dropping a point. The eighth seed will face Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round.
- Moutet On Nadal Clash: 'It's A Chance That I Deserve'on May 24, 2022 at 2:24 pm
For Corentin Moutet, a clash with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is a childhood dream come true. The 23-year-old Frenchman, No. 139 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, already eliminated one former champion this fortnight after defeating 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka on Monday. But his admiration of the 13-time Roland Garros champion runs deeper, going so far as sleeping with Nadal’s Roland Garros apparel on as a young boy in Paris. “It's not sure it will be on the centre court, but Rafa, it's my dream,” said Moutet. “He’s no longer my idol because now I'm on the Tour, but I started playing tennis while watching him. I remember his first Grand Slam. I even imitated him when I was a kid. “[In 2019], I played Juan Ignacio Londero [at Roland Garros] to potentially play Nadal in the next round, but I missed that occasion, so I was always thinking about that. it’s a great pleasure to be able to play him on centre court or any other court.” The crafty left-hander plays a brand of tennis that is in stark contrast to Nadal, opting for a variety of spins and slices that frequently draw errors from his opponents. His desire to be like Nadal delayed that style of tennis from flourishing, though. Moutet sought to replicate Nadal’s play as a junior player before eventually embracing the unique qualities of his game. “When you're a kid, you need to have idols to identify to people. I was a lefty, so he was my inspiration,” said Moutet. “I tried to reproduce what he was doing. So I imitated his serve [and] his forehand until I started doing what was best for me, and it was not to imitate him.” Moutet’s personality is also opposite to Nadal. While the Spaniard is known as a singularly focussed workhorse, the Frenchman marches to his own drum. He took a selfie with a fan during the fifth-set tie-break of his second-round match with Sebastian Korda at this year’s Australian Open, and spends his downtime working on rap music that includes an EP released in 2020. Although the Frenchman has let his emotions get the best of him on court at times, he’s always thrived on the energy of a raucous crowd. He used the atmosphere on Court Suzanne Lenglen to elevate his game against Wawrinka, striking 33 winners and breaking the Swiss star six times to score his first win at this event since 2019. Nadal presents an even steeper test, but Moutet is ready to embrace the challenge. The man who joked after his debut Roland Garros win in 2018 that he’d celebrate by going out until 4:00am will look to lead a raucous party on Court Philippe Chatrier that brings the crowd firmly on his side. “Of course I will try to win, because I'm a competitor and it's my profession. I train every day to play these kinds of matches and win,” said Moutet. “But to play against him, see how it feels, what type of player he is, it's a chance that I deserve. I'm very happy to have won the ticket to play against him.” [NEWSLETTER FORM]
- Compounding Returns: Why Holger Rune Is Happy Being Mr. 1%on May 24, 2022 at 1:42 pm
Holger Rune’s breakout 2022 season hit new highs on Tuesday at Roland Garros. The #NextGenATP Dane upset 14th seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(4) for his maiden Grand Slam win in the first round in Paris. The 19-year-old believes his constant desire to raise his level, even after positive results, has been a key driver of his strong form this year. “Obviously it's always progress,” said Rune in his post-match press conference. “Even last year I was in the same progress. I'm trying to improve one per cent every day, to always to do things a little better than the day before. I think this has really helped me a lot.” Rune arrived in Paris ranked No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, a career high, having claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Munich at the beginning of May. It is a far cry from where he was a year ago, when he reached the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Lisbon as a player ranked outside the Top 300. “I was obviously far away from playing tournaments [like Roland Garros] but always I had to believe in myself,” said Rune. “I was still young last year, so it was great for me to play these kinds of tournaments at that time.” Rune’s progression since that week in Portugal was on full display on Tuesday against Shapovalov, a player who defeated Rafael Nadal on the clay in Rome just under two weeks ago. While aware he was facing an established Top 20 opponent, Rune was determined to only concentrate on what he could control in his first tour-level meeting with the Canadian. “It was definitely a tough match,” said Rune. “Denis can play some unbelievable tennis. For me, it was just trying to focus on what I could do on the court, try to keep holding my serve, try to take every chance I had. I did that pretty good. “Of course, I maybe could have closed the third set easier than I did. I had a lot of chances, but I'm just happy that I stayed focused and finished the match in three sets.” Rune had an early taste of the big stage at the US Open last year, when he came through qualifying to take his place in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time. His reward was a first-round meeting with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium. For Rune, the four-set loss was a key part of his learning curve, but he has now arrived at a point where he wants to turn his potential into concrete results. “Obviously [playing Novak] was a huge experience for me, so I wouldn't have replaced that match for any other at that time,” said Rune. “But it's nice, you know, not to play the best guys in the first round. I would rather wait a little bit. “Of course, you can't say that Denis is an easy draw. He's such a great player. Especially in the Grand Slams, he shows his best tennis. “I really just tried, as I said, to focus on each point and to keep focusing on myself and not to do so much else.” [NEWSLETTER FORM] With success comes increased recognition, but Rune feels he is becoming accustomed to playing against the biggest names on Tour. Rather than it causing any extra nerves, he sees it as a reward for the hard graft he puts in on the practice court. “I think it's nice,” said the Dane. “This is what you work for every day, to be able to play the biggest tournaments. And to play these kinds of players, like Denis, also is great for me. It's an amazing level. “I'm super happy and pleased to be in this position right now. To be able to have chances against these guys. To be able to win my first title in Munich was a huge step forward in my career. “I'm really positive and working hard every day to get better.”
- Medvedev Breezes Past Bagnis In Paris Openeron May 24, 2022 at 10:21 am
Daniil Medvedev notched his maiden clay-court win of 2022 with a quickfire 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over Facundo Bagnis at Roland Garros on Tuesday. It was a comfortable first-round victory for the second seed in Paris as he attempts to settle on the clay this year after missing the bulk of the European spring schedule on the surface due to a hernia procedure. Although an immediate exchange of breaks on Court Suzanne Lenglen suggested a potentially intriguing encounter, it proved to be smooth sailing for 26-year-old Medvedev against the World No. 103 Bagnis. The Argentine appeared to be struggling physically but Medvedev will nonetheless be pleased with the clinical nature of his performance. He struck 35 winners and broke the Bagnis serve eight times in a routine one-hour, 38-minute win. Medvedev had not won a match at Roland Garros in four attempts prior to his 2021 quarter-final run, which included victories over Reilly Opelka and Cristian Garin before ending with defeat to eventual finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. He has had little time to prepare for this year’s campaign at the clay-court Grand Slam. Medvedev only returned to the Tour a week ago at the Gonet Geneva Open, where he suffered an opening-round loss to Richard Gasquet. The World No. 2 will be pleased to have another match under his belt as he seeks to maintain his excellent recent record at major championships. He has reached the final at three of the past six Grand Slams and picked up his first Slam title at the 2021 US Open. Medvedev has extra motivation for a strong run in Paris. Should he reach the final, he will return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, although not until 13 June, a week after the tournament ends, when ranking points from last year's edition of Roland Garros drop. His next assignment in Paris is a second-round meeting with Laslo Djere, after the Serbian completed a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Ricardas Berankis. Djere is an experienced clay-courter who holds a 1-0 ATP Head2Head series record over Medvedev. The 26-year-old has reached the third round at Roland Garros twice and is a two-time titlist on clay, having triumphed in Rio de Janeiro in 2019 and Sardinia in 2020. [NEWSLETTER FORM]
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