Down to 262nd place worldwide a year ago after a knee surgery, the former French number one, winner in Paris in 2008, will face Friday Rafael Nadal.
In November 2018, six months after being operated on with a crack in his left knee, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga disappeared in the limbo of 262e rank to be precise. Monday, November 4th, it will be at least 29e World Cup after winning Thursday in Bercy in the round of 16 against German Jan-Lennard Struff (2-6, 6-4, 7-6) after saving two match points.
Twelve months when the former French number one patiently built his return. At 33, he had to start almost from scratch. After being kept away from the courts for most of 2018, in February, he had regained victory over the circuit in Montpellier. There were early eliminations in the spring and summer (defeats in the first round in Marseille, Rome, 2e turn at Roland-Garros, at 3e at Wimbledon).
Melbourne in the viewfinder
Then, after his elimination from entry to the US Open, he decided to take the path of the circuit Challenger (the second division) history to regain pace and build confidence. First at Cassis (victory). Then in Orleans (semi-final). "Returning to Challengers reminded me of why I play tennis. Because when we go to these tournaments, conditions are always more difficult, he said Thursday night. This allows you to see your career with another perspective and tell me that moments like today (Thursday)for me, it's a bargain and it's just pleasure. "
Between the two, he went to Metz in mid-September 18e title of his career. A victory that put him back in the top 40 (36e).
The former tricolor then had a specific goal in mind: find his place among the 32 by January in order to obtain a status of seeded at the Australian Open. In Bercy, the organizers gave him a boost by offering him an invitation to join the final table. Tomb of Andrey Rublev in the first round, Tsonga, still 239e in January, found a level of play that allowed him to overthrow the Italian Matteo Berrettini (9e) in the second round – only his second victory against a player in the top 10 for two years.
At 34, the Manceau proved that he was still capable of brilliance, despite the accumulation of injuries. Thursday night, he developed:
"I was waiting for this moment when I was going to start winning big players, because it's been a few months since I feel that I play very well. I still lack a little physics, a little bit of everything, but I felt that things were being put in place. Casually, when I look at my season, there are not fifteen holes of air either. I lost twice against Medvedev earlier this year, against Djokovic, Nishikori, Thiem, against players who play well. "
"The impression of playing a final"
Retirement is not for now. Even if his reconversion is already found. Tuesday, in the spans of Bercy, he announced his participation in the All In Academy, created by his coach, Thierry Ascione, six years ago. The structure, which already has bases in Paris, Lyon and near Nice, will establish a center in Décines, on the site of OL City, thanks to the support of Jean-Michel Aulas, president of the OL group. "I want to help French tennis. Whether I do it through the Federation, All In or by myself, it does not change much. My goal is to give young people everything I've learned, I want to help them save time. "
Friday, he will play against Rafael Nadal – winner a little later of Stan Wawrinka (6-4, 6-4) – his first quarterfinal in Masters 1000 for three years. "There is not even pressure to put on; everything is good to take, because not everyone lives these moments. "
In front of the Parisian public, Tsonga finds sensations that remind him of those of 2008, the year of his title. "Whenever I win a match here, I have 2008" vibes "coming back. There is something going on with the audience every time I'm on the court. The public wears me, I feel like playing a final, while it is the first or second round. "
Monfils will face Shapovalov
Tomb of the Moldovan Radu Albot (50e) in the round of 16 (4-6, 6-4, 6-1), Gaël Monfils will face Friday night in the quarterfinals in Bercy the Canadian Denis Shapovalov (28e), who, he, dismissed the German Alexander Zverev. With the elimination earlier in the day of Stan Wawrinka, the equation for the French is now simple if he wants to win the Masters London (November 10-17), which brings together the eight best players of the season: he just needs to reach the semifinals to get the last ticket. He would join Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Medvedev, Thiem, Tsitsipas and Zverev. And the Parisian is now guaranteed to finish his season in the Top 10.