France’s Tsonga bids emotional farewell to tennis career after French Open loss

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world number five, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis at Roland Garros on Tuesday after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.

The 37-year-old Tsonga, who announced last month he would retire following the French Open, was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the Norwegian eighth seed.

“I hope the world can soon find as much peace I found today. Thank you Roland Garros. Thank you Mister Tennis. I love you,” said Tsonga.

With a brass band blasting out ‘La Marseillaise’ at intervals, Tsonga delighted the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier by taking the opening set, but Ruud, who won the Geneva title last week, hit back to claim the next two sets.

The Frenchman broke for a 6-5 lead in the fourth set but was unable to serve out, immediately calling for the trainer before the tie-break and taking a medical timeout for treatment to his right shoulder.

Ruud comfortably sealed victory against a visibly ailing Tsonga, who fought back tears before the final point of his 18-year career.

A video tribute of Tsonga’s career highlights played inside the stadium as friends, family and fellow players gathered on court for his retirement ceremony.

Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer — all players Tsonga beat at Grand Slams — sent their well-wishes in a series of video messages.

Tsonga, unseeded, lost the 2008 Australian Open final to Djokovic as the Serb claimed the first of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

He made it to the semi-finals twice at both the French Open and Wimbledon and finished runner-up to Federer at the ATP Finals in 2011.

Tsonga earned Olympic silver in the men’s doubles alongside Michael Llodra at London 2012 and was part of France’s Davis Cup triumph in 2017.

He also won two Masters titles — in Paris in 2008 and Toronto in 2014.

However, his struggles with a number of different injuries in recent years has seen his ranking tumble to 297.

(AFP)

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