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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga says French Open loss will be a ‘good memory’ even when his career ends

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PARIS — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bid an emotional farewell to tennis in a special appearance 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 that he would retire after this year’s tournament, ending a career that saw him reach the 2008 Australian Open final and 18 career titles. Tsonga faced No. 8 seed Ruud in the first round and, despite a courageous performance, injury abruptly ended 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 on tiebreak but losing the next two. After a resurgence in the fourth, he broke Ruud for a chance to serve for the set at 6-5.

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But he hurt his shoulder winning break point with his forehand, and when he went to serve for the set, he found he couldn’t lift his arm properly. That left him underpowered as he launched an underarm effort at 15-30, with Ruud breaking it. Tsonga then called a medical timeout, but he lost the tiebreaker 7-0 and the match.

To mark Tsonga’s last match in the sport, the French Tennis Federation held a special on-court presentation for him, where he was joined by former coaches and his family. Fellow players Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon also joined Tsonga on court, the quartet dubbed the New Musketeers as they made their way through, and 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 “stay myself, Jo.” He spoke of how lucky he felt to be able to fulfill his dream, but also of the pressure he was under in the spotlight, saying that in the eyes of his critics he was “one day Swiss, one day French”. .One white day, one black day.” He said he was perceived as “one day a fraud, another a national hero” and “one day young, one day old.”

But he ended by saying that he hoped the world would find peace, adding that 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,” said Tsonga. “I ended up on the court playing the way I have throughout my career. It will always be a good memory. Somehow, I ended up the way I wanted to end up.”

Women who advanced to the second round included 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, 2018 champion Simona Halep, No. 9 Danielle Collins, No. 11 Jessica Pegula and No. 22 Madison Keys.

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

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

Korda, 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, 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 victory at Roland Garros after six losses in the first round.

Tiafoe, ranked 24th, converted just five of 23 break chances against his French opponent but advances to a second-round match against Belgium’s David Goffin.

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

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

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

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

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

Shapovalov fought back in the third set to force a tie break, but fell behind 3-1 and was unable to recover, sending a forehand wide on match point.

Later, Hugo Gaston cruised to a five-set win over 19th-seeded Alex De Minaur of Australia.

The Frenchman trailed 3-0 in the deciding set after losing nine games in a row before fighting back to beat De Minaur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(4) in a match of first round. which lasted almost four hours.

The 21-year-old left-hander rattled off five points in a row in the tie-break to clinch victory in front of home fans on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia was also among Tuesday’s subsequent winners, when he defeated South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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