Jo-Wilfried Tsonga plays in Winston-Salem Open

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga plays in Winston-Salem Open
September 07
00:00 2015

In above photo: Star tennis player Jo-Wilfred (Photo by Craig T. Greenlee)

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga plays in Winston-Salem Open



In his 12 years on the pro tennis circuit, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France has become one of the game’s most recognizable personalities. He made a name for himself in 2008 when he reached the finals of the Australian Open as an unseeded player.

As a pro, Tsonga has won 11 tournament titles in singles. In the process, he’s proven himself as a world-class elite. For the last seven years, he’s ranked among the Top 15 in the world (ATP). During that stretch, he was in the Top 10 five times, which includes a career-high No. 5 ranking in 2012. Tsonga’s career earnings total over $15.3 million in singles and doubles.

During last week’s Winston-Salem Open (WSO), Tsonga’s star power was put on full display. After winning his first-round match against Denis Istomin, he stood at center court and hit tennis balls into the stands for fans to collect as souvenirs. While walking back the locker room after that match, he was besieged by a throng of well-wishers who wanted pictures and autographs and he happily obliged.

Seeded third at the WSO, Tsonga was eliminated in the third round by Steve Johnson, who advanced to the semifinals. Earlier this week, Tsonga was matched up against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round of the U.S. Open.

When healthy, Tsonga, 19th in the world rankings last week, is formidable. Standing 6-feet-2 and weighing 200 pounds, he’s at his best when his serve (130 mph) is right. Tsonga’s booming forehand is equally impressive. He was a semifinalist in this year’s French Open.

Tsonga, whose father is African (Congo) and whose mother is French, is one of the few active players who have advanced to the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slam events (French Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open) during his career.

Plus, he’s one of only three players to register Grand Slam victories against the top four men’s players – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

In the aftermath of his early-round victory, Tsonga granted this interview with SportsWeek.

SW: In making the decision to play in the Winston-Salem Open, did you view the tournament as a means to prepare for the U.S. Open which is scheduled the following week?

Tsonga: I didn’t come to play in this tournament to help me prepare for the next week. I came because I was looking to play some good tennis and move up in the (world) rankings. I’m looking to get back in the top 16, and possibly the top eight.

SW: Prior to the Winston-Salem tournament, you had only played in eight tournaments because of an early-season injury to your forearm. Do you feel like you’re beginning to get back on track?

Tsonga: Since I haven’t played that much, my game feels fresh and I’m not worn out. But on the other hand, it’s always tough to come back after being out for a period of time. It’s like I have to start all over again from the bottom and work my way back to the level I was at before being injured.

SW: It seems that you tend to struggle in your first-day matches. But in most cases, you’re still able to win and advance in the rounds. How do you manage to play well enough to win when you’re not at the top of your game?

Tsonga: In tournaments, I usually play better and better with each match. It’s always been like that with me. I’ve never played really well on my first day of competition. As I play more matches, I get more accustomed to the playing surface, which is always a big factor in how well I perform.

SW: You recently celebrated your 30th birthday. How much longer do you plan to compete on the pro circuit?

Tsonga: The fact that I’m still around proves that I still believe in myself and my ability to play at the highest level. I’ll keep going until I feel like it’s time for me to stop.

SW: Regardless of what city or country you play in, there’s no denying that you’re the crowd favorite. How does it feel to be so well received in your travels?

Tsonga: I don’t know what it is that I do that causes me to get such warm welcomes. I play all over the world and that’s what happens everywhere I go. I’m very pleased with that because it means that people think a lot of me.

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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