Tennis

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga may be set for another false dawn

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has once again showed he has the quality to mix it with the best in the game by winning the Toronto Masters last week, but it has all the potential to be yet another false dawn in the Frenchman’s career.

While the one-time Grand Slam finalist beat Swiss Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6 in the final on Sunday, it has not silenced the critics who feel that he lacks the consistency to belong at the very top of the game.

That is without attempting to take anything away from the French number one, who became the first man since Argentine Guillermo Canas in 2004 to win four consecutive matches against players ranked inside the top 10.

The 29-year-old claimed wins over world number one Novak Djokovic, two-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray and Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov before defeating Federer on his way to winning his second Masters Series title, and he is one of just seven players on the tour to win more than one of these titles.

Previous disappointments

One prevalent issue that faces him now is whether he can follow up on a meaningful success, and his 11th singles title would have to class as that, as it will surely stand out as his proudest achievement away from a Grand Slam.

When he reached the final of the Australian Open in 2008, beating number two seed Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals to get there before losing to Djokovic in the final, he then failed to make the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for another two years, and he has never realised his potential of winning a major.

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Tsonga became the first man to ever beat Federer from being two sets behind when he defeated the then six-time champion at Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in 2011, before being beaten by Djokovic in the semi-final.

It was just under two years later that he produced arguably the best performance of his career when he crushed the same player 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarter-finals at the French Open, which was followed by a disappointing 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 loss to David Ferrer of Spain in the next round.

Those two performances at Roland Garros that year summarised Tsonga’s career, as he has often wowed supporters with diving winners and powerful, attack minded performances, but has too often followed it up with surprise losses full of unforced errors and unreliability.

Change in fortunes

Looking at his record in 2014, few would have predicted that he would grasp a Masters Series title, as his tournament victory in Toronto is his first since winning the Open 13 in Marseille in February 2013, and he has been knocked out in the fourth round of all three Grand Slams he has competed in.

Even with his magnificent performances and results gained in Canada, Tsonga’s realistic expectations are unlikely to amount to him thinking he will win the US Open, which begins on August 25th, but he has given himself some form and confidence that was missing this year.

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The Le Mans-born player will see his world ranking rise from 15th to 10th, and getting back into the top 10 could improve his draw at Flushing Meadows, though the likes of Djokovic and Federer will be different beasts to conquer in the environment of a Grand Slam should he face them, as their combined 24 major titles will testify.

It has been established that winning a Grand Slam title may be beyond him, but if he can sustain his form going into the Cincinnati Masters and throughout the indoor season, then he could salvage his year by qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November for the fourth time.

Expect the unexpected has been the way with Tsonga’s career so far, but now is the time for him to prove that he is capable of more than a flash in the pan, and a run to the semi-finals at the US Open could do just that.

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Tennis
Jo Wilfried Tsonga

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