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French Open Tennis 2022 – Tsonga’s career comes to an end but not before impressive effort against Ruud

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga reacts after his final match signaling his retirement from tennis during day three at Roland Garros on May 24, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Ranked 297th in the world and having won only three matches this season compared to nine losses, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga went into his French Open first-round match on Tuesday afternoon as a massive underdog against world No. 8 Casper Ruud.

Even the most optimistic of Tsonga supporters probably didn’t think it would last long. And it did, in fact, turn out to be the last match of the Frenchman’s career. But Tsonga was not about to go away without putting on one final show.

The 37-year-old battled one of the best clay-court players on tour for three hours and 49 minutes and even served to force a fifth set. A raucous crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier did everything it could to help Tsonga improbably extend his career, but in the end his body failed him one more painful time en route to a 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-2, 7-6(0) loss. A right shoulder problem contributed to Tsonga’s inability to close out a dramatic fourth set.

Nonetheless, the former world No. 5 bowed out with his head held high.

“It was just amazing,” Tsonga said in his post-match press conference. “The way the crowd support me today, they give me the power to fight, and that’s what I did. Today was a good match for me. Unfortunately I didn’t finish the way I want to finish, but I finish on the court, playing like I did all my career, running after the ball.

“It was emotional for me. And anyway, it’s gonna stay a good moment in my head. In a way I finished like I want to finish.”

Casper Ruud of Norway paid tribute to Tsonga afterward. EPA-EFE/LAURENT GILLIERON

“It was a challenging match and difficult because of the situation, obviously,” Ruud admitted. “I think also Jo played very well. He was serving great and playing very powerful and aggressive with his forehand. Yeah, I think that’s been the strongest part of his game for many years and he still showed a lot of good tennis today. I never was able to kind of get into the rhythm that I like to play and play through the rallies too often.

“So I think it was overall a high quality match because we were both serving well and playing well on our serves.”

Tsonga’s serve and overall huge hitting propelled him to an outstanding career spanning 18 years that included a Grand Slam final appearance at the 2008 Australian Open and a total of 467 match wins. He is one of just three players (also Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro) to beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer when all three were No. 1 in the world. He is also one of only three (also Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych) to beat Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer at a major.

“Adrenaline,” Tsonga said when asked what he will miss the most. “To step on a big court like this one, adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

“What happened to me is quite unlikely. Physically I was not feeling that good recently, but today or in the past two or three days, I have been feeling better. And I had not felt like this for a long, long while. I think that it’s thanks to all of this, that is all these people who support me, and the craze, the passion, the people in the stands.

“It was pure madness today; one of the best atmospheres I have seen in my career, and it’s my last match.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.