Who is this French tennis player?
Our family used to play a lot of tennis and as an Australian I guess I am pretty keen on watching the best of tennis this time in the year - the Australian Open. So it's been some late nights, watching on TV or listening to the radio - some matches going on for four hours and one until 4.30 a.m.! Anyway last night I watched the third set of the match between Tsonga and Nadal and what a surprise. Who is this 22 year old French player who knocked out the second seed? Here's his bio (but it's in French!)
The Age journalist wrote up the game as follows:
Dancing Frenchman with killer blow marches into final
January 25, 2008
THERE was a moment during last night's Australian Open boilover that said much about the free-form, energetic spirit of young French player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the giant-killer who may now face Roger Federer.
The unseeded 22-year-old last night beat world number two Rafael Nadal in three extraordinary sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. The match was full of raw, unbridled power from Tsonga, a Frenchman with Congolese heritage. As he went 5-3 up in the crucial second set — with an almighty, boastful smash, he punched the air, danced on the spot then swaggered around his end of the court, prowling Rod Laver Arena like a victorious boxer punch-drunk on his own brutal power. Tsonga is nicknamed Muhammad Ali on the men's tennis circuit because of his uncanny resemblance to the famous boxer. But when he swaggered across the court like he did, dancing to his own beat, the likeness is more than just looks, it's the whole package.
The Rod Laver Arena responded, and surged with him. Large sections of the 15,000-strong crowd were on their feet to support him. Here was a fresh young player with attitude, character and a phenomenal game taking on a triple French Open winner and not only beating him but taking him apart bit by bit. Nadal has never suffered such a defeat.
So Tsonga swaggered and danced but he had more to do, and his next move was audacious. He was serving for the second set having already won the first. To win the set would give a good shake at the biggest match of his life. Nadal had wandered off to change racquets as a slowdown tactic, but it didn't work, Tsonga's first serve was an ace. So was the second, at 202 km/h. Then the third — another ace, even after a challenge — at 221 km/h.
He won the set. It's fair to say that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's life changed at that moment. His tennis was just like this throughout the match: carefree, brave. It was as if he didn't care about the score or his famous opponent, he just wanted to hit the ball as hard as he could to wherever Nadal wasn't. He felt, he said, as if "nothing could stop me". It was, he said, "like a dream. I can't believe that it is true."
Tsonga now meets the winner of tonight's semi-final between Roger Federer and rising Serb star Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. He was unfazed. On last night's form he could beat anyone who dared to take him on. Asked about his two possible opponents, he said: "Both of them have two arms and two legs like me. So we will see."