Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is set to begin his run at the Viking International Eastbourne, an ATP 250 grass-court tournament, on Tuesday against Belarusian Egor Gerasimov. In the past, the Frenchman would be a leading favourite at this event. But this week, he is just trying to win a match.
The 36-year-old is 1-6 on the season, and before 2021 he had not earned a victory since 2019. Tsonga is not down on himself, though. Instead, the fan favourite is taking this moment as a personal challenge.
“I think the goal for the moment is to prove to myself that I’m able to still play a good level of tennis,” Tsonga told ATPTour.com.
The 18-time ATP Tour titlist has reached incredible highs in tennis, climbing to a career-best No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and competing in the Nitto ATP Finals three times. He has also earned a combined 16 wins against the Big Three of Roger Federer (6), Rafael Nadal (4) and Novak Djokovic (6).
But in recent years, injuries have kept Tsonga from playing his best. The Frenchman underwent left knee surgery in 2018, which kept him out for more than seven months, and last year back issues limited him to just two matches.
In the first round of this year’s Open 13 Provence, Tsonga battled through a tough three-set victory against fellow veteran Feliciano Lopez. The three-time Marseille champion had won 464 tour-level matches before that triumph. But judging by the wide smile that stretched across his face, that victory meant more than most.
“This is probably one of the best victories of my career, because it was tough for me to play tennis. I had so much pain for so many months,” Tsonga said on court after the match. “Today, I won one match. That was one of my goals for these few weeks… I’m happy like a kid.”
In these tough moments, Tsonga has gained an even greater appreciation for being able to play professional tennis. And although he is now World No. 83, the 36-year-old is embracing the challenge.
“What I’ve been through the past couple of months was really challenging and when you play tennis, it’s because you like tennis,” Tsonga told ATPTour.com. “For me, it’s already a big challenge to be able to play good matches and to be able to still compete with the new generation.”