He’s the best player the French have to offer at the moment. His crushing, dominant serve allows him to hold serve with relative ease. But Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s talent goes much further than simply serving. He’s got a powerful forehand as well as having great agility despite being 6’2”. His main shortcoming which causes him to be on the outside looking in to the “Big Four” of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal is his consistency. He gave Djokovic a scare in the 2008 Australian Open final, made it to the semi-final at Wimbledon the past two years, and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the Olympic Games in 2012 and at the U.S. Open in 2011. While the 200-pound Frenchman may not make it into the top four in terms of rankings, he still has the ability to claim a Grand Slam title if in top form.
The 2012 French Open was one to remember for Tsonga, and not in a good way. He had the edge. His serve was dominant. But he couldn’t close out Djokovic when he had opportunity after opportunity to do so. The match lasted a total of four hours and nine minutes, proving to be physically and mentally debilitating to both players, especially Tsonga. After taking the 2nd and 3rd sets from Djokovic 7-5, the scene was set for Tsonga to make a claim at the semi-finals (which would have been against Federer). In the fourth set Tsonga couldn’t hold the ATP #1-ranked player, and would yield the set 7-6. It was obvious to Tsonga that he had lost all momentum and he appeared utterly deflated in the 5th set, losing 6-1. The final count of the match was 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1 for Djokovic.
Without a doubt the primary weapon in Tsonga’s arsenal is his overpowering serve. Reaching up to 135 miles per hour, his rocket shot is especially effective at faster tournaments such as the grass courts at Wimbledon and the DecoTurf at the U.S. Open. He regularly serves at over 120 miles per hour, forcing considerable pressure on his opponents from the onset.
Charging the net is a very risky strategic move. Guess wrong and you can give away easy points. Tsonga has become quite good with his charges, putting away points quickly. As opposed to fighting from end line to end line, Tsonga’s net charge allows him to conserve energy and maintain his fitness throughout the match. An elongated match like during the 2012 French Open plays to Tsonga’s disadvantage. How he finishes any particular match will depend on how successful his serves and net-charges prove to be early on. If the momentum is on the Frenchman’s side and he can grab some quick points early, chances are he will be the one smiling at the end of the match.
Tsonga is an electric tennis player who thrives on blitzing opponents to earn quick points. He wears down mentally during prolonged matches and the French Open in 2012 was a clear sign of this. One of the most talented players in all of tennis, Tsonga plays loosely with a gunslinger’s mentality that is extremely enjoyable to watch from a fan’s perspective. I don’t see anyone complaining if Tsonga is able to win, and while it hasn’t proved easy for him to crack into the Big Four’s hold on men’s singles, let’s think about what Tsonga does bring: size, superior talent, rocket serves, lethal forehand, strength, finesse around the net… All components which make Tsonga a worthy contender for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.