April 16, 2024


You are Your Only Limit

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga says loss at French Open will be ‘good memory’ even as he ends career

4 min read

PARIS — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bid an emotional farewell to tennis in a special presentation on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros after losing his first-round match Tuesday at the French Open to Casper Ruud.

Tsonga, 37, announced last week that he would bow out after this year’s tournament, bringing an end to a career that saw him reach the 2008 Australian Open final and 18 career titles. Tsonga faced Ruud, the No. 8 seed, in the first round, and despite a valiant performance, injury led to an abrupt end to his hopes as he lost 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (0).

In front of a packed stadium, France’s Tsonga got off to a brilliant start, winning the first set in the tiebreak but dropping the next two. After a resurgence in the fourth, he broke Ruud to give himself a chance to serve for the set at 6-5.

But he injured his shoulder winning the break point on the forehand, and when he went to serve for the set, he found he couldn’t lift his arm properly. That left him underpowered to the extent that he threw in an underarm effort at 15-30, with Ruud breaking him back. Tsonga then called for a medical timeout but went on to lose the tiebreak 7-0, and the match.

To mark Tsonga’s final match in the sport, the French Tennis Federation held a special presentation for him on the court, where he was joined by former coaches and his family. Fellow players Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon also joined Tsonga on court — the quartet dubbed the New Musketeers when they broke through — and there were video messages from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Tsonga — who at his peak reached No. 5 in the men’s rankings in 2012 — addressed the crowd, and in his speech thanked those who helped him on his journey and for helping him to “remain myself, Jo.” He spoke about how fortunate he felt to be able to fulfill his dream but also about the pressure he found himself under in the spotlight, saying how in the eyes of his critics he was “one day Swiss, one day French. One day white, one day Black.” He said he was perceived to be “one day a fraud, another a national hero” and “one day young, one day old.”

But he finished by saying he hoped the world would find peace, adding that he had found peace within himself at the end of his career.

“The crowd was amazing today, supporting me and giving me the power to fight,” Tsonga said. ” I finished on the court playing like I did throughout my career. It’ll always be a good memory. In a way, I finished like I wanted to finish.”

2021 French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, the No. 4 seed, dropped the opening two sets before getting past Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 at Court Philippe Chatrier as the calendar flipped from Tuesday to Wednesday and the temperature dipped to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius). A year ago, Tsitsipas blew a two-set lead in the final against Djokovic.

Women who advanced to the second round included 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, 2018 champion Simona Halep, No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka, No. 9 Danielle Collins, No. 11 Jessica Pegula and No. 22 Madison Keys.

Also Tuesday, Sebastian Korda advanced with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (6) victory over Australian veteran John Millman.

The American player, seeded 27th, fended off two set points in the tiebreaker and converted his fourth match point when Millman hit a forehand volley long.

Korda, who is 21, had 43 unforced errors to Millman’s 25. Millman is 0-6 at Roland Garros.

Korda reached the fourth round at the French Open in 2020 as a qualifier. Millman, who is 32, was a quarterfinalist at the 2018 US Open.

Another American, Frances Tiafoe, beat Benjamin Bonzi 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (5) for his first win at Roland Garros after six first-round defeats.

Tiafoe, who is ranked 24th, converted just five of 23 break point opportunities against his French opponent but advances to a second-round match against David Goffin of Belgium.

Tiafoe reached the fourth round at the US Open in both 2020 and 2021.

The 24-year-old American first lost at Roland Garros in 2015, then failed to qualify for the tournament the next year.

Daniil Medvedev started the day with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over Facundo Bagnis of Argentina on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The No. 2 seed and US Open champion was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last year after four straight losses in the first round.

Danish teenager Holger Rune then upset 14th-seeded Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Rune, who is 19, won the BMW Open this month and was a semifinalist in Lyon last week.

Shapovalov fought back in the third set to force a tiebreak but fell behind 3-1 and couldn’t recover, sending a forehand wide on match point.

Later, Hugo Gaston pulled off a five-set victory over 19th-seeded Alex De Minaur of Australia.

The Frenchman trailed 3-0 in the deciding set after losing nine straight games before battling back to beat De Minaur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (4) in a first-round match that lasted nearly four hours.

The 21-year-old left-hander rattled off five straight points in the tiebreaker to clinch victory in front of the home fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen.

No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia was also among Tuesday’s later winners, as he defeated Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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