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Tsonga Vs. Djokovic: A Rendezvous With Destiny

Saturday, January 26, 2008

At 3:30 a.m. eastern time Sunday on ESPN2 (rebroadcast at noon), we should see one of the best tennis grand slam finals that has ever been broadcast. Both players, world no. 38 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and world no. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia earned the right to stand on the surface of Rod Laver arena in this 2008 Australian Open Final. What an incredible match this will be.

Here is the transcript of Tsonga's pre-final interview*:

Q. Have you gotten Nadal out of your mind by this time and moved on mentally?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yeah, I think at the final, yeah. It's finished now.

Q. Did you watch last evening?


Q. Did you watch the whole match or just a little bit?


Q. What are your thoughts on Djokovic being there tomorrow against you?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: I don't know. He won yesterday. He played well. It's never easy to beat Federer. We will play tomorrow at the final, and it's going to be a big moment of sports.

Q. What are the main differences between facing Nadal and facing Djokovic?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: It's the same, no? It's the same, because Nadal is 2 in the world and Djokovic 3, so both of them won a lot of tournaments and they have more experience than me.

I know it's going to be difficult, but I'm here and ready for that.

Q. Do you feel any differently now than you did before the first round playing Andy Murray? Are your nerves any different? Is your concentration any different? Is your composure any different?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: No. I try to keep the same way. I try to approach this match like the other one.

Q. Have you had much of a chance to see any of Melbourne or do any sightseeing? What's your opinion of Melbourne?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: My opinion of Melbourne? It's a nice city. I feel great here. I have a lot of good things in my head here. I'm happy to be here.

Q. Have your parents arrived yet?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: They arrive Sunday at the morning, tomorrow morning.

Q. Can we go back to that week at Surbiton just before Queens which your coach says was such a big changing week for you when you had to play the challenger tournament and get across and play qualifying as well. What do you remember about that week?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: About this week?

Q. No, at Surbiton.

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: When I played the challengers?

Q. Yeah.

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: It was not very different. It's all ‑‑ it's you. You're here, and when I played challenger it was not. So there is no difference play a final in challenger or here for me. I try to be the same.

Q. But that same week was the big week of Roland Garros and you were in a different country at a small little tournament. What did you feel like? Were you determined to maybe next year at the same time be at Roland Garros rather than Surbiton?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yes, it was special for me, because of course Roland Garros is big event for me and for all French guys.

I was sad to ‑‑ of this situation. But now I'm here and maybe I will be seeded this year, so it was a good choice for me.

Q. It's Australia Day today. Do you plan to do anything typically Australian: Have a beer, go to a barbeque?


Q. Since your semifinal win how have you stayed relaxed and stayed calm?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Just stay in my room at the hotel, practice, and that's it.

Q. You try not to think about all the media and the different things that people want from you now that you've reached the final?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: No, no, I don't think about it. It's normal. You have to write on me, and I know my life so I don't have to read it in the paper.

Q. What movies do you watch or music do you listen to to relax in your hotel?


Q. What in particular?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Everything. I won't say something in particular.

Q. You seemed to enjoy the atmosphere the other night in the semifinal. Does a big crowd help your game a lot?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yeah. It help me because I like that and I'm good ‑‑ I feel good in this atmosphere.

Yeah, it does for me.

Q. Do you find it surprising how much the crowd got behind you the other night in the match?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Not really, because all match before the people was clapping for me. So, no, I was not surprised.

Q. And it helps you improve your game, to take it to another level, playing in front of such a...


Q. Do you feel that your life has changed in this last fortnight, the expectation on you and what you have achieved?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yes, of course, a little bit. It's not a chance for everyone to be in final at the Australian Open, so of course it change a little bit.

But me, I try to stay the same person.

Q. Do you have any sense of how France is reacting? I understand that in Belgrade they're going crazy. Are you getting any feedback that the French public are really into what's happening here?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yeah, of course, of course. I'm just proud of that.

Q. Why have you played so well this tournament?


Q. Yeah, why? Clearly this is your best tournament. What's been the secret?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: I don't know. Because maybe I don't want to play bad.

Q. What happened last year?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Last year was different. It was a different year. It was my first year on the tour. This year's my second and I have more experience and, yeah, so I play better.

Q. Your nickname is Ali, and people liken you in looks to him. Have you ever watched any videos of his fights or have you watched any movies about him? Is it an ambition of yours maybe to meet him?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yeah, of course, I watch some DVDs. My father was at the fight at Kinshasa because he's from Brazzaville. He took some photos, so I have some souvenir.

Q. So he's been an inspiration to you since you were a child?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: No, no, no. Maybe more now than when I was child.

Q. Can you believe you've made the final of a Grand Slam so quickly in just your second year on the tour?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: No, I not believe it, but I'm here and I have to do it.

Q. What do you have to do to win tomorrow night?

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Just play ‑‑ just do my best, and that's it. I will see what's happened on the court, but I will do my best. If I win, that's unbelievable. And if I lose, I did my best, so no problem.

Q. Sorry to get back on Muhammad Ali. But say in your words why Ali is an inspiration to you now.

JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Maybe his personality on the court. Maybe I think I have the same tennis as his box.

Posted by Shelia

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