At Roland Garros, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play the last tournament of his rich career this year, marked by a final at the Australian Open in 2008 and two 1000 masters won. Those who rubbed close to the 37-year-old Sarthois testified this week. After his brother Enzo, his different coaches, his fellow players and those with whom he will lead his future professional life, it was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga himself who received us in Lyon and agreed to look all the way. . And to open his heart, he the great modest.
How did you handle the flood of media requests before your last tournament?
I had known for a long time that I wanted to stop at Roland-Garros and I didn’t want to announce it too soon so as not to have to endure this media flood for too long. I have to go through that, but it’s true that he’s pretty tired because I keep playing and there are other demands around as well. And since I’m no longer in top shape, obviously all of this requires a lot of energy.
Physically, how do you feel?
I feel better and better every day. I’m pretty happy because I’ll still be in good shape at this Roland-Garros, with no injuries. I feel good.
Do you want to somehow get rid of a weight by announcing your Roland-Garros retirement?
It freed me from a weight, of course. I also know that I’ve only played one full year in the last three or four years, so my body is no longer fit for top-level tennis, so the best players in the world, I’ve been for ten years. . It was hard for me to play and not win anymore, and people say “oh, it’s not good” and all that, when in my head I knew it was the last rush.
You played two semifinals at Roland-Garros in 2013 and 2015. Symbolically, was it the perfect place to stop?
Roland-Garros is a tournament that will have marked my tennis career, since I was a child since I did my first national training sessions at the age of 11, 12. Sometimes I stayed at Roland-Garros for a month in the summer. Then I played in the French championships of all age categories, I played in a Davis Cup semi-final … I had very good results on the field of Roland, while in general I was not the best player of clay, it was not my specialty. I’m glad I can finish it.
“I’d like a hanging party, where I go to the end of myself”
Your last dream match, how do you imagine?
A tough match! (River) A hanging match, where I go to the end of myself. So I imagine the end, in any case so I would like it to happen, regardless of the outcome of the matches. The most important thing for me will be to fight to the end and end up with a good atmosphere, as I have always experienced in the end at Roland-Garros. I have always had the opportunity to receive support at all times. I definitely want to end it like this.
Does the opponent matter?
I’m not sure I can hook the best players in the world today. But my level is still right. I tell myself that depending on who I am, I can actually have my chances of being able to move forward. I don’t plan on the comet, I’m just trying to be diligent enough at work and get there well prepared to give the best performance possible.
Will it be difficult to contain emotions?
It will be almost impossible (smile). That too, I’m a little apprehensive because I’m not the one who prefers these kinds of moments. But on the other hand, I am not the one who manages to hide his emotions. I took a look at what awaited me in Lyon (his penultimate tournament, defeat in the 1st round), and it was painful! (River) It was nice, but painful.
“I’m basically addicted to gambling”
What do you miss most about a professional tennis player?
The game I am fundamentally attached to the game, to commitment, to overcoming, to adversity, to the relationship with the public on the field, not necessarily outside. I would change the field for the outside. (River), because I am someone who is rather discreet and reserved for life. But yes, the atmosphere on the track, all the stress that went up before entering the field, the adrenaline rush at the important points.
Your career can go through your end points. If so, what would these flashes be?
I have no idea, honestly, I’ll let it go. I’m sure I’ll have pictures in my head but I don’t know which ones. Will it be tennis, will it be from my family or something else? They are questionable and I am looking forward to living the thing, I want to live it fully so as not to project myself too much.
Are you sorry today?
I retire serenely because I am a happy and fulfilled man. I’ve already done a lot of things in my life for my “young age”. Tennis allowed me to meet many fantastic people, discover many cultures, many countries, discover many strong emotions, both positive and negative. I feel fulfilled because I have my little family, my children who are in good health. I have everything I need to feel good.
Don’t you think that sometimes your career is underestimated? Especially when we see that the next generation of French tennis is slow to arrive. Now we realize a little more about the luck we had with the Musketeers …
Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either (River). I know what I have achieved, I know what I have gone through, I know how lucky I am. Today I don’t care if people recognize me or not. At first, when we play, we don’t look for that thing. When you’re young, you play because you like the game, you like to win, and you don’t look beyond that. What people think depends on them. Those who say it was good, I will be very happy, and those who say it is not enough, unfortunately I can not go back (River). Is it like that.
“Everything I have, I had to go for it with the sweat of my brow”
People who know you well describe a disconnect between the ambitious tennis player you’ve always been and the person you’re out of, someone emotional, sentimental. Need a shell?
Of course, we protect ourselves from certain things. My daily personality is necessarily tied to my upbringing. But also on the ground finally. I consider that I was not really born with a golden spoon in my mouth. Everything I have today, I had to go for it with the sweat of my brow. I trained, I worked hard, they never gave me anything but a lot of love. He smiled at me and, on the ground, I had, like everyone I believe, frustrations to evacuate.
Would you have preferred to retire with a more consolidated succession at the level of French tennis?
I don’t necessarily have an opinion on this. Me, I did what I had to do. And for the rest, I will be the first to be happy that there is a little Frenchman who breaks it even though he is going to look for that famous Grand Slam title that French tennis is waiting for. I will be happy to share my experience to try and get someone to achieve what we have not achieved. A player who would do like us, would not be interesting in quotes (River). A player who does better would be better.
“I find myself very much in the simplicity of Sarthe”
What would you like to say to the sarthois who have always followed you from afar?
I want to thank you for your support. I come from Savigné-l’Évêque, a village about ten kilometers from Le Mans. I said I wasn’t born with a gold spoon in my mouth, but I lived a golden childhood. I didn’t miss much, I had what it took to feel good. I went to school on foot or by bike, I had a lot of friends, we played sports, we played soccer outside, we went by bike, we had fun. What I remember from my years at Sarthe is that you don’t have to shine to be happy. We just need friends, social bonds, love around us, food on the plate and a small roof, of course (River). I find myself very much in Sarthe’s simplicity and I have to go back to it when I feel like it’s a little too much in my professional life. Simplicity is what my department brought me.
How do you imagine the sequel?
The sequel will be great! I’m happy enough. Obviously I will leave a part of tennis that I love: competition, training, that, I loved. But at the same time, I leave a part of tennis that I don’t like: being on planes, hotels, everything that can be related to the superficial part of what we do. I don’t like that at all. I’m going to love not having to deal with all this logistics, having to make a decision about what media I’m going to talk to, who I’m going to do this or that, and so on.
You can return to your fishing trips …
That, I never left. I started fishing when I was five years old in Sarthe. We went fishing in the Sarthe elsewhere (smile), in the Huisne, on all the neighboring rivers. And that will stay with me throughout my career. It was important for me to come back from time to time to breathe and disconnect from this washing machine that is tennis.
EPISODE 1. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of his brother Enzo: “He quickly had this flame on him”
EPISODE 2. “When he came back from a tournament, he went fishing”: Tsonga for his coaches
EPISODE 3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga seen by his competitors: “At 14, we wanted to be Jo Tsonga”
EPISODE 4. Which Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after his retirement?