Tsonga ends career as injury leads to French exit

    • Joined ESPN in 2011
    • Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
    • Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018

PARIS — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bid an emotional farewell to tennis in a special presentation on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros after losing his first-round match Tuesday at the French Open to Casper Ruud.

Tsonga, 37, announced last week he’d bow out after this year’s tournament, bringing an end to a career that saw him reach the 2008 Australia Open final and 18 career titles. Tsonga faced Ruud, the No. 8 seed, in the first round, and despite a valiant performance, injury led to an abrupt end to his hopes as he lost 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (0).

In front of a packed stadium, France’s Tsonga got off to a brilliant start, winning the first set in the tiebreak but dropping the next two. After a resurgence in the fourth, he broke Ruud to give himself a chance to serve for the set at 6-5.

But he injured his shoulder winning the break point on the forehand, and when he went to serve for the set, he found he couldn’t lift his arm properly. That left him underpowered to the extent that he threw in an underarm effort at 15-30, with Ruud breaking him back. Tsonga then called for a medical timeout but went on to lose the tiebreak 7-0, and the match.

To mark his final match in the sport, the French Tennis Federation held a special presentation for Tsonga on the court, where he was joined by former coaches and his family. Fellow players Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon also joined him on court — the quartet dubbed the New Musketeers when they broke through — while there were video messages from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Tsonga — who at his peak reached No. 5 in the men’s rankings in 2012 — addressed the crowd, and in his speech thanked those who helped him on his journey and for helping him to “remain myself, Jo.” He spoke about how fortunate he felt to be able to fulfill his dream, but also the pressure he found himself under in the spotlight, saying how in the eyes of his critics he was “one day Swiss, one day French. One day white, one day Black.” He said he was perceived to be “one day a fraud, another a national hero” and “one day young, one day old.”

But he finished by saying he hoped the world would find peace, while adding he had found peace within himself at the end of his career.

“The crowd was amazing today, supporting me and giving me the power to fight,” Tsonga said. ” I finished on the court playing like I did throughout my career. It’ll always be a good memory. In a way, I finished like I wanted to finish.”

Also Tuesday, Sebastian Korda advanced with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (6) victory over Australian veteran John Millman.

The 27th-seeded American fended off two set points in the tiebreaker and converted his fourth match point when Millman hit a forehand volley long.

Korda, who is 21, had 43 unforced errors to Millman’s 25. Millman is 0-6 at Roland Garros.

Korda reached the fourth round at the French Open in 2020 as a qualifier. Millman, who is 32, was a quarterfinalist at the 2018 US Open.

Another American, Frances Tiafoe, beat Benjamin Bonzi 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (5) for his first win at Roland Garros after six first-round defeats.

The 24th-ranked Tiafoe converted just five of 23 break point opportunities against his French opponent but advances to a second-round match against David Goffin of Belgium.

Tiafoe reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open in both 2020 and 2021.

The 24-year-old American first lost at Roland Garros in 2015, then failed to qualify for the tournament the following year.

Daniil Medvedev started the day with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over Facundo Bagnis of Argentina on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The No. 2 seed and US Open champion was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last year after four straight losses in the first round.

Danish teenager Holger Rune then upset 14th-seeded Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Rune, 19, won the BMW Open this month and was a semifinalist in Lyon last week.

Shapovalov fought back in the third set to force a tiebreak but fell behind 3-1 and couldn’t recover, sending a forehand wide on match point.

Later, Hugo Gaston pulled off a five-set victory over 19th-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia.

The Frenchman trailed 3-0 in the deciding set after losing nine straight games before battling back to beat De Minaur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (4) in a first-round match that lasted nearly four hours.

The 21-year-old left hander rattled off five straight points in the tiebreaker to clinch victory in front of the home fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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