“Panea, scenario, injury”, the successful farewell to tennis of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

We will no longer see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s thumb dance on a tennis court. Improvised at its beginnings and continued because the public had adopted it, the celebration of the French player after a victory will no longer return to the courts.

At 37, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played, Tuesday, May 24, the last meeting of his rich career. Defeated after having fought a good battle against the Norwegian Casper Ruud in the first round of Roland-Garros (7-6 [8-6]6-7 [7-4]2-6, 6-7 [0-7]), Le Manceau bows out. A match in summary of his immense career, alternating moments of grace, grimaces, and an injury at the very end of the match having prevented him from defending himself until the end.

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“There was everything, panache, script, injury, a very solid opponent, because that too is part of my career”, summed up Tsonga at a press conference.

For the beginning of 705and and maybe ultimate match of the professional life of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, at the beginning of the afternoon, the public missed the call. The central court was sparse, despite the presence of a small “kop” of supporters who came with drums to accompany their favorite.

The words of Yannick Noah came to mind, coming out of the semi-final of Le Manceau at Roland-Garros in 2013, regretting, hotly, that the public had “drop Jo”. Then entered a half-empty Philippe-Chatrier court, Tsonga had been “deprived of this energy” and had “played his first set on neutral ground”, judged the last French winner Porte d’Auteuil. In view of the boiling atmosphere of the football stadium reserved for Benoît Paire, Monday, May 23, on the Simonne-Mathieu court, these words remain relevant.

However, and even if he was moved by what he expected to be his final appearance on clay at Roland-Garros – and last entry on a court as a professional tennis player – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga attacked the meeting without ask questions. As often at Porte d’Auteuil, the one who recognizes “not to be a clay court specialist” has found resources to shine there anyway.

Not an “earthling”, but a real Roland-Garros player

It’s not a surface on which I had the best results., admitted the player before the tournament. But Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has always been a real Roland-Garros player. “It was a special tournament for me.he underlined Friday – already speaking in the past –, evoking the conditions, the specificity of the Parisian clay court, and its relationship to the public. Everything I did was really different from what I experienced in other tournaments. I always arrived very confident here, although I hadn’t necessarily won a lot of matches in the previous weeks. »

Would he be able to repeat the experience, once again? Defeated in the first round of most of the – rare – tournaments he has played this year and immediately pitted against the tough Casper Ruud, world number 8 and the only Norwegian clay court specialist, Tsonga was aware of the magnitude of the task. to accomplish.

Driven by his efficiency in service, the Frenchman attacked the game with serenity, facing a Norwegian who seemed to lack inspiration. In a Central gradually regaining its atmosphere, the Frenchman won the first round after a perfectly mastered decisive game.

Clenching his fist, “Jo” could smile, he who wanted above all not to miss his farewell. If he no longer has the mobility of his 22 years – when he broke through at the highest level, with a final at the Australian Open in 2008 – the Frenchman assured his shots, made few errors, and made his adversary understand that he would have to go for the victory.

If it was missing “lots of certainty”after two years complicated by injuries, Tsonga estimated before the tournament to be “when [il] feels[ait] best physically”. If the Frenchman did not give up in the second set, only losing in the decisive game, the end of the game turned to Ruud’s advantage. Caught up by the passage of time, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to give up his arms, and lost after more than three and a half hours of play. Not without having fought to the last point in the fourth set, grimacing after an injury preventing him from serving in the decisive game. A heartbreak for the player, rewarded a few seconds earlier by the crowd with a thunderous Marseillaise.

“It’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in my career, I couldn’t ask for better, savored the Frenchman. That’s what I’m going to miss. I wanted to finish on the court giving the maximum and I think that there, I went to the end. Anyway, I don’t think there would have been a second game, because I left everything on the pitch. »

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A start on a defeat

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will therefore never have won Roland-Garros. Twice semi-finalist Porte d’Auteuil, the Frenchman will not have managed to touch one of the four Grand Slam trophies. With 18 titles to his credit on the circuit (only Yannick Noah has done better among French players, with 23), including two Masters 1000 – the highest tournaments, with the exception of those of the Grand Slam –, Tsonga does not has nothing to be ashamed of his career.

Met a few days before this end clap, the player assured not to have ” no regrets “. He who had fought to reach the highest level, who had had to overcome serious injuries, had ” led [sa] career as [il] heard him[t] »in a discipline where elected officials are rare.

“To be a tennis player, basically, is to be a loser, insisted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, after announcing, in early April, his upcoming retirement. When we play tennis, we lose every week. » Even Roger Federer, considered by many observers to be the greatest player in the history of the little yellow ball, “has lost more weeks than he has gained”completed the Frenchman.

Tournament after tournament, week after week, a tennis player has to get back to work. “When you’ve lost, you have to be told: ‘You’ve lost, okay? Well, get up, there’s another game. Tomorrow it starts again. And get ready, because you’re gonna lose again. You’re going to lose today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow…” That’s our job, that’s tennis. It’s accepting to lose and saying to yourself: “Tomorrow, I’m going back to win”. »

Tomorrow, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga may prepare his saplings to go fishing. But the best French player of the last twenty years will not return to training for the next tournament.

His career ended on Tuesday on the clay courts of Roland-Garros, as he had wanted. If he did not engage in a final thumb dance, the player kissed the court.

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