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Tsonga, No Longer In The Shadow, Readies For Prime Time

Monday, January 28, 2008

Life is going to change fast for Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who came into the Australian Open as a promising but little-known 22 year old and leaves as one of the hottest stars on the ATP circuit after reaching his first Grand Slam final. Tsonga, who will break into the Top 20 for the first time on Monday, had never before reached a final at ATP level.

Tsonga will come under immediate consideration for a singles berth in France's Davis Cup first-round tie against Romania on February 8-10. New sponsors will be beating down his door and he'll be one of the marquee players headlining center-court programs at almost every tournament he plays.

Appearing in only his fifth Grand Slam championship, the 22-year-old knocked out No. 9 seed Andy Murray in the first round, No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet in the fourth round and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals before losing a four-set slugfest against Novak Djokovic in the final.

One year ago Tsonga was ranked World No. 212, having lost to Andy Roddick in the Australian Open first round. On Monday he will rise to No. 18 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings to become the second highest-ranked Frenchman behind Gasquet.

A New Star is Born: Fairytale Run to Final

After an illustrious junior career that included winning the 2003 US Open junior title – in a year he finished the No. 2 junior in the world – his progress up the South African Airways ATP Rankings and onto the ATP circuit was hampered by a variety injuries.

Tsonga made his ATP-level debut in tandem with Gasquet at Roland Garros in May 2002, but it wasn’t until September 2004 in Beijing that he took his singles bow and recorded his maiden victory over Hyung-Taik Lee before falling to former World No. 1 Carlos Moya in the second round.

At ATP Masters Series Paris two months later, he hit a 144mph serve – the third fastest on the circuit that year – and highlighted his speed around the court by upsetting Mario Ancic 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 before falling to Guillermo Canas.

A herniated disc injury kept him out of action between November 2004 and March 2005, followed by two injuries to his right shoulder. Between October 2005 and February 2006, Tsonga was again sidelined by back and abdominal problems.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Last year Tsonga won four of five Challenger tournaments he contested between April and June. On the same weekend that he won the fourth of the Challenger titles in Surbiton (d. Karlovic in the final), Tsonga also played qualifying at Queen's Club, where he won three matches to make the main draw. En route to the third round Tsonga took out four-time tournament winner and former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt. Match Report

For his performances Tsonga was awarded a Wimbledon wild card and the Le Mans-born player didn’t disappoint as he reached the fourth round (l. to Gasquet). A third round showing at the US Open (l. to Nadal) was followed by a quarterfinal exit in Metz (l. to Murray) and a semifinal performance in Lyon (l. to Grosjean) during the indoor season.

In his first tournament of the 2008 ATP season, Tsonga beat Hewitt again en route to the Adelaide semifinals (l. to Nieminen). The following week he partnered Gasquet to the Sydney doubles crown (d. Bryan-Bryan), which represented his second piece of ATP silverware after Lyon a few months earlier (w/Grosjean).

Tsonga was attempting to become the first Frenchman to win the Australian championships since Jean Borotra in 1928. Yannick Noah, at Roland Garros in 1983, is the only Frenchman to have won a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era

Posted by Shelia

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