Tsonga is honing his squeaky frame for the final strokes of the tennis storm

On Sunday afternoon on the French Riviera, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face the international media for the first time since announcing that he will say goodbye to all the glitter and glamor on the tennis court.

The prelude to the 2022 Monte Carlo Masters will be another moment in the incarnation of what has been more and more obvious to Tsonga’s legion of fans and admirers who have tracked his achievements between the lines for the best part of two decades.

The exuberant force of nature, which was Jo-Wilfried Evrard Tsonga, had long since disappeared.

His desire to return to what he considered an acceptable level despite the amount of damage has been a courageous rage to defy the evidence.

Tsonga revealed his decision to move on to the next phase of his life during a pleasant chat with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

During the conversation – his wife Noura El Shwekh by his side – 36-year-old Tsonga admitted that his body no longer responded to his will. A dissonance that is tougher for top-level athletes.

“It’s been several years since there was at least one moment every day where I thought, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I hurting myself like this?'”

Tsonga, who turns 37 on April 14, should not ask the question too much anymore.

A first round match in Monte Carlo on Monday against Marin Cilic and then just a little more pain to bear for the big love-in at the French Open – the place he calls home.

Prestige

Really without good reason, as a certain Rafael Nadal has essentially annexed the site with his 13 single titles.

Yet few would dislike Tsonga such a weeping Weltanschauung. And since he stands at 1 meter 88 and weighs 91 kg, very few would actually argue for the opposite.

The impressive frame has been able to knock the cream off the circuit.

He has raised 18 singles since becoming a professional in 2004, making him the second most successful French male player since tennis opened to professionals in 1969.

The two most prestigious trophies came at the Paris Masters in 2008 and at the Rogers Cup in Canada in 2014.

On the road, there were remarkable victories over all the big guns like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Thick of action

But unlike that troika, Tsonga was never able to harness his talent over seven matches in two weeks to win a Grand Slam tournament. The closest he came was in 2008, when he competed in the Australian Open final against Djokovic.

The Serb, who will also compete in the Monte Carlo Masters, won four sets to launch his Grand Slam counter – currently running at 20.

Tsonga never reached such heights again. He lost in the semi-finals at the French Open in 2013 and 2015. There were also semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2011.

Those were the days. At the forefront of the action at the business end of competitions.

And then almost five years after playing in the French squad that beat Belgium to take the Davis Cup, it’s joker invitations to the main draw. 2014 Monte Carlo Masters champion Stan Wawrinka – also recovering from injuries – will also get one.

Tsonga will need a wildcard from the French Tennis Federation for the French Open if he is to fulfill his desire to finish at Roland Garros.

This request should be granted within the next few days. It would be considered a scandal to reject the plea.

Tsonga will consequently leave the party with the bragging rituals – the most successful player of a talented generation that included Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils – imaginatively christened “quatre mousquetaires” as a tribute to the Alexandre Dumas novel.

Simon – already 37 – lovingly tweeted that he would soon be joining his old friend to have a chat about their days of derring-do on tour.

But despite their great excitement, the four consistently thrilled in the big tournaments. Simon questioned the modus operandi of the French training system in a thoughtful book published in 2020.

And although 35-year-old Monfils is still slipping around the top 20, of his 11 tournament wins, no one has been to a Masters 1000 competition.

Tsonga’s decision to stop will focus on the current harvest of French 20-somethings.

The view is not gender. Ugo Humbert at the age of 23 is the highest ranked with 47 in the world. Eleven places further down the food chain lies Arthur Rinderknech. Like Benjamin Bonzi at 61, he is in his mid-twenties.

Hugo Gaston – ranked number 68 – at least has a little more time on his side. The 21-year-old reached the final 16 at the French Open in 2021 and reached the quarter-finals at the Paris Masters in November last year.

None of the four, however, appear to be world winners, and their chances appear to be ever-decreasing with 20-year-old Jannik Sinner and 18-year-old Carlos Alcarez rising rapidly and on the fringes of the top 10.

Tsonga can – while facing journalists’ investigations and encouragement – mourn his accident with injuries. But he can also recognize a well-lived tennis life.

He will retire with odd 20 million euros from earnings and a few million more from sponsorship deals and promotional items.

A few kids and projects like Allin Academy should also keep him busy.

Following the inevitable defeat at the French Open in May, FFT will undoubtedly rattle a video montage on the pitch of Tsonga at its best.

There will be tears and tribute. There will be smiles and applause. Total Jo love. And why not?

Tsonga kept French tennis on the map.

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