All eyes will be on France for the start of the second Major of the year, Roland Garros. France is one of the ultimate powerhouses in world tennis. The nation keeps developing top 10 and top 20 players who can compete at the pinnacle of the sport. Despite this, French tennis fans have been waiting a staggering 34 years for a men’s singles Grand Slam champion. Arguably their biggest hope of ending that drought is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal has impressed over the clay court season after winning titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid. As a result of his dominance of late, Nadal enters the French Open as the heavy favourite. Apart from Nadal there is a vast group of players who could do some damage and potentially win the title. World #1 Andy Murray is experiencing a dip of form, just like world #2 Novak Djokovic. No one really knows what to expect of these two due to their respective slumps. Australian Open champion Roger Federer will not be in Paris as he looks ahead to Wimbledon. Dominic Thiem has impressed in the clay swing but has only made one Grand Slam semifinal in the past. Alexander Zverev has now been catapulted into the mix after his success in Rome, but is it too soon for the 20 year old?
All of these players have valid cases to go all the way in the French capital, and so does Jo-Wilfried Tsogna.
Tsonga’s Year So Far
The World #13 is enjoying one of his best ever starts to a year and arrives in Paris in rich form. His opening tournament was a solid one where he made the quarterfinal stage in Doha. The Frenchman followed this up by reaching yet another Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open, falling to Stan Wawrinka. What came next was Tsonga on song.
A run to the title in Rotterdam was his first in 17 months. Two came at once as a week later Tsonga won his second successive tournament in Marseilles. His nine-match winning streak was ended by Fabio Fognini in Indian Wells, although the Frenchman’s focus may have been elsewhere as his partner was heavily pregnant. Due to the birth of his son in March, Tsonga has not played a lot since. He will be looking to bring his hot form into Paris.
Can Becoming a Father Help?
As I mentioned earlier, Jo-Wilfried became a father in March. His son, Sugar, can have a big positive impact on his tennis. Just ask Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Both of these men enjoyed some of their best years shortly after the birth of their sons. In fact, both Andy and Novak finished the next year as #1 following becoming parents. I am not suggesting that Tsonga can become a World #1, but I am suggesting that he could find a level of play he has yet to discover.
No Stranger to Home Success
If we know anything about the Frenchman it is that he does not crumble under the pressure of a nation. He actually thrives and plays his best tennis in front of his fans. Exactly half of Tsonga’s titles have come in France, including the Paris Masters back in 2008. He has also posted exceptional results at Roland Garros. Twice Tsonga has fallen at the semifinal stage at the French Open (2013 and 2015). He has made five Grand Slam semifinals overall. To make two of them on his weakest surface with the weight of a nation on his shoulders shows just how hungry he is to end the 34-year drought.
As well as those semifinal showings, he very nearly defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2012. At the time, the Serb seemed invincible at Slams due to the fact he was going for his fourth successive major. Djokovic entered this match as a heavy favourite and it looked like it was not going to be pretty for the French fans when he won the opening set 6-1. Tsonga did not back down and instead he fought his way back into the match. Tsonga held four match points in this battle to potentially end the Serb’s 25-match winning streak in Slams. The world #1 eventually prevailed but the French fans warmed to Tsonga. He had demonstrated that he could battle with the best in front of his home supporters and fight to the very end.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one of only three men to defeat each member of the illustrious “Big Four” at a Grand Slam. Those other two men are Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych. This statistic just emphasizes how Tsonga is a big match player and rises to the occasion against some of the best players ever to play the game. The Frenchman plays with no fear and relies on his instinct to bully his opponents off the court. Tsonga is an entertainer and performs shots that most players can only dream about; because he is such a charming personality the crowds adore him.
With Tsonga there is a formula: the bigger the stakes, the better he plays.
Can Tsonga Go All The Way
There is no one on the planet that Jo-Wilfired Tsonga cannot beat. It is purely a case of the Frenchman stringing his brilliance together over seven matches. Although the majority will not be picking him for the title, people are still aware of the dangerous threat Tsonga poses on his rivals. Players fear him and that is what you need to become a Grand Slam champion. If 2017 has taught us anything it is to know that the impossible can indeed happen. Tsonga winning the French Open can only follow the script of an unbelievably unpredictable year.
With one of his best starts to a year and the arrival of his son into the world, the stars are truly aligning for the giant-killing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman can truly surprise everyone at Roland Garros.
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