A Proper Farewell for the French in Paris


Paris — Farewell can be particularly tricky for older tennis players. Part of the Darwinian appeal of pro gaming is that it has nowhere to hide. You can’t gracefully leave the pitch with a substitution, and there’s no convincing way to mask the erosion of skill and speed.

If you’re on the verge of retirement like Tuesday’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, you and your partner are probably younger, healthier and better off.

However, the most successful French player of his close French generation, Tsonga wasn’t exactly alone when he faced eighth seed Norwegian Casper Ruud at the Philippe Chatrier Court.

Tsonga, 37, announced in April that she looks older. It has been announced that the French Open will be his last tournament. That means the French crowd was well prepared for him in this first round match.

The grand, renovated stadium was only half full when Tsonga walked over the red mud in the early afternoon after wiping tears from his eyes in the tunnel. Lunch remains a top priority for our compatriots in Tsonga. However, thousands of more French fans eventually found their place and attended the event. Partly because Tsonga got up on his own despite the defeat.

Tsonga went 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (0) after Ruud’s victory, “It was difficult because I already came out on the court in a fairly emotional state.” Wait, now is not the time to break. You have to go for it. You have to play. You want to be here. You want to fight to the last ball.’

Mud has long been Ruud’s best surface. He can run and run. Former Australian Open finalist and French Open semi-finalist, currently ranked 297, Tsonga hasn’t been a major threat on any surface for years with an injury.

He shouted “Give me my leg back” after losing in the first round to Alex Moulcan at the Lyon Open in France last week.

But although he was inspired to target Tuesday and suggested that there was no logical way to push Ruud to the limit, to his surprise, he got poignantly close. He won the opening set, nearly won the second set, and in the fourth set he woke himself up as Ruud neared victory and Tsonga drew closer to the finish line.

He broke Ruud’s serve in the 4th and took a 6-5 lead, generating one of his biggest roars in nearly two decades playing for Roland Garros. However, he injured his right shoulder with a big forehand in the process and couldn’t do more than push the ball into play for the rest of the time in tears as he prepared to provide the last point of his career at 0-6. penalty shootout. He did not cry alone.

The farewell match that Tsonga acknowledged marked his 18-year career in many ways.

“There was drama. There were injuries. We had a very tough opponent on the other side of the net. Because that was part of my career,” he said. “I think I’ve met some incredible players over the years.”

It is undeniable. At 37, he is three years younger than Roger Federer and two years older than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Tsonga’s highest ranking was said to be #5. He defeated them all several times with great serve, forehand and attacking skills, but all of them stole a thunder over the years and his much weaker backhand wing. Djokovic was the first to defeat Tsonga in Tsonga’s only Grand Slam singles final at the 2008 Australian Open.

With his foot speed, forehand and youth at the time, it seemed self-evident that Tsonga would experience more of those opportunities. Instead, he had to be more content with the five Grand Slam semifinals. One at the Australian Open, two at Wimbledon and two at the French Open. his path to victory.

Overall, Tsonga won 18 singles titles on the regular tour, 14 of which were won in the lowest ATP 250 category and two in the highest Masters 1000 category.

It was enough to make him the most successful French man of the Open era, after Yannick Noah, who sprinted to the net to win the French Open in 1983, and is still waiting for another French player to follow his lead and win.

Noah, whose mother is French and father is Cameroonian, is now 62 years old and spent his childhood on a family estate in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. As is evident in his new documentary, he remains a lasting source of fascination in France, serving his role as Davis Cup captain and French Federation consultant over the years to inspire his successors.

He had world-class talent, but no Grand Slam singles champion. Not Guy Forget or Henri Leconte. Not Cedric Pioline, Sebastien Grosjean, or Arnaud Clement. And it was called New Musketeers to honor the four Musketeers who led the hasty construction of the Roland Garros Stadium with a Davis Cup victory over the Americans long ago in the 1927 Davis Cup, not the generation of Tsonga that included Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils. . You’ll have the right conditions to host the 1928 Davis Cup Final.

Once aboard the arena complex as an ambitious junior, Tsonga will soon become a teammate but is the first in the new Musketeers to retire. Simon, also 37, has announced he will join later this year and will also host his final French Open.

Simon, Gasquet and Monfils all attended Tsonga’s farewell party on Tuesday. After Tsonga fell into the mud and kissed him after the match, they joined his parents. wife, nura; two young children; Coach at every stage of his career, on the court that Tsonga’s generation often shined, but never lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires despite the proverb.

Tsonga, the most recent retiree from tennis, had bigger immediate concerns. He could barely raise his right arm, but he seemed to have accomplished it. “I’m proud of myself,” he confirmed. “I gave you everything.”

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