Day two of my countdown to the World Tour Finals takes a look at the year of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga hasn’t mathematically qualified just yet but barring a miracle that would see two of the chasing pack contest the final, his entry will be confirmed. This week sees Tsonga’s first week of teaming up with new coach Roger Rasheed so it will be interesting to see the impact he has on the final weeks of the season. Tsonga retired early in his first match in Valencia but there is nothing to suggest the withdrawal was anything other than precautionary measures at this point.
Titles: Doha (Hard), Metz (Indoor Hard)
Tsonga started off the year well, taking advantage of an open draw that saw Rafael Nadal eliminated in the semi final and Federer a pre-match withdrawal, to win the first title of the year in Doha after defeating fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final. However, he couldn’t quite take momentum into Melbourne and would be eliminated in the fourth round by Kei Nishikori. While the Japanese has come on leaps and bounds this year, it was a match the former finalist was heavily favoured to win.
Moving to Europe, he would be defeated by eventual winner Juan Martin Del Potro in Marseille in the semi finals. Argentinians would continue to haunt Tsonga for the next few weeks, with Del Potro once more taking the win in Dubai. For the third week running, he would be knocked out by an Argentinian but this time it would be David Nalbandian who came from a set down for a surprise victory at Indian Wells.
The clay swing began with a surprise defeat from John Isner in Davis Cup. Early exits in Munich and Madrid sat between two Masters 1000 quarter finals. Gilles Simon would end his run in Monte Carlo while Novak Djokovic sent Tsonga packing in Rome. The climax of the clay swing came at Roland Garros where Tsonga suffered a heartbreaking defeat in one his best performances of the year. In the quarter final, he would dominate then No.1 Novak Djokovic for much of the middle sets and had four match points. He would be unable to convert any and would tamely surrender in the fifth set 6-1.
On the grass, a shock defeat at Queens did little for Tsonga’s Wimbledon chances. The second round exit of Rafael Nadal opened up his quarter of the draw and he would take advantage to make the semi final. Tsonga looked on his way to forcing a deciding set from 2-0 down after having break points late in the fourth set but much like in France, he would fail to take advantage. A month later, he returned to the grass for the London Olympics and would earn a silver medal in men’s doubles. In the singles, his run was most known for the marathon match against Milos Raonic which saw 48 games in the final set. Novak Djokovic would once more defeat Tsonga in a big quarter final in straight sets.
After a shock exit in Toronto to Jeremy Chardy, Tsonga has shown remarkable consistency for the rest of the season. A semi final loss in a third set tie break to eventual winner John Isner at Winston Salem will have hurt but nowhere near as much as his disappointing second round exit to Martin Klizan at the US Open. After a 6-1 second set victory, it seemed the momentum would be with Tsonga but he collapsed and would win just four more games for the rest of the match. He would justify his billing as No.1 seed in Metz, dropping just three games in his victory in the final against Andreas Seppi.
The Asian swing saw Tsonga do battle with Novak Djokovic once more and it would be the Serbian who came out on top for the fourth time in the year, once again in straight sets to take the Beijing title. Tomas Berdych sent out a message to possible opponent at the WTF’s by defeating him in consecutive weeks, the latter to win the title in Stockholm. Tsonga held a set and break lead before falling apart.