Five Best Moments of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s Career

Jo Wilfried Tsonga French Open practice
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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played the last match of his career at Roland Garros on Tuesday, losing to Casper Ruud 7-6 6-7 2-6 6-7. The Frenchman was about to serve for the fourth set when he suffered a shoulder injury, leaving him barely able to continue (won just one of the next twelve points). What followed was a tear-jerker of a retirement ceremony with many of his colleagues attending, a brigade of former coaches, and his biggest rivals wishing him farewell on video. Let’s delve into the best five moments of his career, the moments that made Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the legend that he is:

  • Australian Open 2008

Ranked World No. 38 when the tournament began, Tsonga definitely wasn’t mentioned among the title contenders. Especially as he got a nightmare opening-round draw – Andy Murray, who was already a top 10 player back then. But Tsonga would go on to have a breakout run, which featured three more wins of great quality – over 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny, 8th seed Richard Gasquet, and the most important one, over 2nd seeded Rafael Nadal.

Tsonga dropped merely seven games in an absolutely unbelievable display of attacking tennis, constantly pressuring the Spaniard with huge forehands and net approaches. The shotmaking was just absurd and while he ended up losing to Novak Djokovic in the final, at that point everyone was already convinced that the Frenchman will feature in the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments for years to come. This was the moment when Tsonga became a truly elite player.

  • Wimbledon 2011

Besides the Australian Open 2008, Tsonga made five other Grand Slam semifinals. Why did I choose to include this one and not any of the other four? At the last eight stage, the Frenchman achieved an uncanny feat. He faced the winner of six of the previous eight editions, Roger Federer, and went down two sets to love. The Swiss great had never lost from such a position in a Major before (178-0) and with the match being played on the court where he was at his most dangerous, it seemed like Tsonga’s chances to complete the comeback were next to none.

But in stunning fashion, Tsonga did the unthinkable and threw Federer out of the tournament 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-4. Up to this day, only two more players managed to defeat the 20-time Major champion from two sets to love down in a Grand Slam event (Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson). The Frenchman would go on to play a great match against the former of these two in the semifinals, losing in four sets.

It’s also worth mentioning that of the Big Four, Tsonga had his best matchup against Federer, winning in 6 out of 18 attempts (although before this Wimbledon clash, he was down 1-4). The two would go on to form a brilliant rivalry in the latter half of 2011, dominating the indoor season and meeting in the finals at Bercy and at the ATP World Tour Finals.

  • London Olympics 2012

During the 2012 London Olympics, Tsonga fell in the quarterfinals of the singles event. Somewhat unexpectedly, he went further in the doubles, teaming up with Michael Llodra. In the semifinals, they scored a thriller-like 6-3 4-6 18-16 win against David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. While they weren’t able to defeat the Bryans in the final, the silver medal was already secured.

Held on the grass courts at Wimbledon that year, the Olympics meant a lot to Tsonga, who wrote this for the ITF website in 2019: “Frankly, I think winning a medal is something apart. Thanks to it I really feel I’m bound with the sports family. When you play tennis you sometimes feel that you’re put aside… In our sport the business side has taken so much importance nowadays: there’s a lot of money involved, a lot of things, and I think that with the Olympics you go back to basics, to the game, and to the sportsmanship.”

  • Toronto 2014

Tsonga won two ATP Masters 1000 titles and while the first one is usually the more memorable one, that’s not the case here. The 2014 Rogers Cup is remembered as one of the best single event performances of any player, period. It started with two victories over fellow Frenchmen, Jeremy Chardy and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, before it rapidly got a lot more serious.

Tsonga took out Djokovic 6-2 6-2, before making another upset over Murray in the quarterfinals. His only previous ATP 1000 title included one member of the Big Four (Djokovic), this one had not just two, but three. That’s right, Federer was the final boss awaiting him in the championship match at Toronto. In a thrilling encounter, Tsonga completed this unbelievable set of performances with a 7-5 7-6 victory, one of six times he managed to defeat his Swiss rival.

  • Davis Cup 2017

As there are no ranking points, some players aren’t as focused on and willing to play Davis Cup ties for their country. That wasn’t the case with Tsonga, who said this a month before France’s final against Belgium in 2017. “That’s all we’re playing for. I don’t know anyone who is playing for anything other than such a prestigious goal,” said the Frenchman. “All the best players have [won Davis Cup]… and they all fell to their knees when they won, no matter the opponent. Yes, I’ve been thinking about it. Whenever we think about it, the adrenaline starts pumping. It’s a great feeling.”

Tsonga had some bitter memories connected to Davis Cup finals already. Back in 2010, he had to pull out of it due to a knee injury, and could merely watch as his teammates went up 2-1 against Serbia, only for Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki to complete the comeback. In 2014, the Frenchman lost to Stan Wawrinka in the first match of the tie against Switzerland but had to be subbed by Richard Gasquet due to an arm injury. France lost 1-3.

Main Photo from Getty.