By Jane Voigt
Washington — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has had a rough time of it this year and, honestly, throughout his entire career mainly due to injuries.
In the first three Grand Slams his draws pitted him against big-named players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori in early rounds. These fateful meetings were a direct result of the 34-year-old Frenchman’s slip in the rankings. As the Australian Open got underway he was ranked 177. Players ranked that high don’t get favorable draws. Yet this week at Citi Open tennis, where he is currently ranked 70, Tsonga has shown brilliance with wins over the talented Canadian Qualifier Brayden Shurr and then a come-from-behind win over the second-seeded Karen Khachanov.
Thursday, though, Tsonga met his match against Kyle Edmund, the 13th seed. It wasn’t for trying that Tsonga lost, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. In fact his stats out-paced those posted by Edmund. Tsonga smashed 18 aces, to Edmund’s 4, won more points off good first and second serves, and outscored the Britain on first and second return points, as well.
“This is tennis,” Tsonga explained. “If you play football and you score one more than the other it’s a win. But in tennis it’s different. In the end, it’s not who wins more points. It’s the guy who’s going to win [big] points.”
Tsonga started aggressively, breaking early and forcing errors from Edmund who couldn’t find his rhythm. The side court was packed, even though temperatures approached 90 degrees. Most fans seemed to support Tsonga, one in particular consistently cheered him on.
“I like that shot. Let’s go!” And “Let’s go baby, let’s go. Put it on him.” And “Yeah, baby, that’s beautiful.” Tsonga didn’t seem to hear him, though.
Tsonga is positive about his comeback. He was a top-ten player in 2017, and if his movement on court this week is any indication, he’ll be within striking distance of the top 50 soon.
“Of course I can take some positive things away from all three matches here,” he said. “I have to continue to increase my level and be a better player. Everyday I come on court and do my work.”
But what about all those injuries? Can he improve and be assured he won’t go down again?
“Yeah … so many injuries, so many things. My knees. My back,” he said. “Mentally, though, it is easy. Depends how you take it. You can say okay I missed that tournament, I missed my career. But, for me, it’s not like this. So every time I’m injured or on the court it’s like a challenge for me. Life is like this; everyday you have a challenge, you have a kid who’s growing up … that’s a challenge. Life is a challenge and I take it like that.
Late Thursday, Rogers Cup awarded Tsonga the last wildcard in to the main draw of this ATP Masters 1000 event.