Jo-Wilfried Tsongu survived 20 injuries and beat the Big Three in tennis
The charismatic Frenchman said goodbye to big sport. Oldfags remember him for his flashy battles back from the top 4, Davis Cup and fun celebrations. In addition to the spectacular tennis that Jo showed on the court, he was a great guy in his own right: at the 2016 Australian Open, Tsonga noticed a ball hit the bogey and carefully took her off the court under his arm.
Jo announced his retirement on the eve of Roland Garros 2022 – a home and definitely a favorite tournament – here he was always welcomed and supported. And it was all the more pleasant to feel the support of the court in a knowingly lost match: after all, on the opposite side is clay specialist Kasper Ruud, who the day before took another – already the seventh – 250 series tournament on the sand.
So Jo lost his first-round match to the Norwegian, but he did it with maximum dignity and even had all the chances to get into the lead at the start in sets, but 1:3 (7:6 6:7 2:6:7). Before the final “game, set and match” many had tears in their eyes: Jo finished the tie-break of the fourth game with a shoulder injury and already wet eyes, thanking the fans for the chants in his honour and a sensuous “Marseillaise”.
Tsonga ended his career on the center court of Philippe Chatrier, basking in the applause of the loving crowd, national team friends and family. Gilles Simon, Pierre-Yugues Herbert, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils, Benoit Paire, and former coaches and physiotherapists wearing “Merci Jo” shirts came to say goodbye. He even managed to hold his son Sugar in his arms in front of a crowd of 20,000.
It’s especially painful to say goodbye to those you grew up on: Carla Suarez-Navarro, Carolina Wozniacki, Juan-Martin del Potro, Ashley Barty, David Ferrer. That’s why it’s hard to believe that in a few years we’ll be weeping at the last matches of Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray.
It is this foursome, as well as injuries, according to experts, that was the main reason why Jo never took at least one Grand Slam. His highs are the 2008 Australian Open final, the Roland Garros semi-finals (2013, 2015) and Wimbledon (2011, 2012) and the US Open quarter-finals. But he is philosophical about his victories: “If I didn’t achieve it it means it is too hard for me. That’s all.
Jo belongs to another sad achievement – he is one of the few players to have been withdrawn from all TBS matches. Intervertebral hernia, right shoulder, back, abdomen, knees and hips, wrists and ankles, torn meniscus – about 20 injuries the Frenchman suffered in his 18-year career. Sickle cell anemia is a disorder of blood cell structure that leads to fatigue, anemia, and bouts of pain, among other things. Most likely, this is the reason for the tennis player’s increased injuries.
Although that has not stopped him from going out and playing top-class tennis: he has taken part in 18 ATP tournaments, including two Masters tournaments. One of them, in Toronto in 2014, made history. Then Tsonga took out Djokovic (and with an obscene score – 6:2, 6:2), Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the final.
“After the final match I felt exhausted. I remember going to the bathroom and started peeing blood. I got scared and called the doctor. He said I hurt some muscle fibers because I was too tired and too tense,” Tsonga said was the highlight of his career.
He always celebrated such victories in his own way – also spectacularly: with a thumbs-up dance – as Jo calls it. He would jump up, making several turns around his axis, and with his thumbs pointing to his back. This looked especially effective because of the Frenchman’s size: at 190 centimeters Jo is very plastic. That is why Tsonga was nicknamed “teddy bear”. The image was completed by the Frenchman’s voluminous mohair.
“He was considered one of the most charismatic, energetic tennis players when he was at his best. I think Jo can be proud of what he did and what he left behind in the sport,” Djokovic admitted.
By the way, the tops did say goodbye to Jo: Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and even Federer recorded an adorable video in which they told why they love their colleague. So do we!